Skip to main content

Full text of "Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater"

See other formats


Airborne Operations In World War II, 

European Theater 


Dr. John C. Warren 

USAF Historical Division 

Research Studies Institute 
Air University 
September 1956 

Report Documentation Page 

Form Approved 
OMB No. 0704-0188 

Public reporting burden for the collection of information is estimated to average 1 hour per response, including the time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and 
maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information. Send comments regarding this burden estimate or any other aspect of this collection of information, 
including suggestions for reducing this burden, to Washington Headquarters Services, Directorate for Information Operations and Reports, 1215 Jefferson Davis Highway, Suite 1204, Arlington 
VA 22202-4302. Respondents should be aware that notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person shall be subject to a penalty for failing to comply with a collection of information if it 
does not display a currently valid OMB control number. 


SEP 1956 




Airborne Operations in World War II 









Air University,USAF Historical Div,Research Studies Institute,Maxwell 






Approved for public release; distribution unlimited 



Planning and execution of large-scale airborn operations by the Army Air Forces in the European theater 






19a. NAME OF 







Standard Form 298 (Rev. 8-98) 

Prescribed by ANSI Std Z39-18 

Personal views or opinions expressed or implied in this publication are 
not to be construed as carrying official sanction of the Department of 
the Air Force or the Air University. 

Published at 
Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama 
September 1956 
Air University USAF Historical Division Study 


This monograph describes the planning and execution of airborne 
operations by the Army Air Forces in the European Theater during 
World War II. Intended to serve as a case history of large-scale 
airborne operations, it seeks to analyze and evaluate them as a basis 
for doctrine and for the information of future planners. This history 
was written by Dr. John C. Warren of the USAF Historical 

Like other Historical Division studies this history is subject to 
revision, and additional information or suggested corrections will 
be welcomed. 


I The Airborne Invasion of Normandy— Plans and Preparations . 1 

Background 1 

Early Planning— The COSSAC Phase • • • • 2 

Shaping the Outline Plans 6 

Detailed Planning 9 

The Buildup 17 

Deployment and Training. . , . . . ... . - . . 20 

Final Preparations 26 

Deception and Diversion ....... . . ... . . . . . . . 28 

II The Assault 32 

The Pathfinders 32 

ALBANY Mission and the Paratroop Operations of the 

101st Division 33 

BOSTON Mission and the Paratroop Operations of the 

82d Division 48 

Evaluation of the Paratroop Operations ............. 58 

CHICAGO and DETROIT— The Initial Glider Missions . ..... 61 

KEOKUK and ELMIRA Glider Missions . . 65 

The Glider Missions on D plus 1— GALVESTON and 


Evaluation of the Glider Missions 72 

Parachute Resupply Missions 74 "it 

The British Missions and WILDOATS 78 

III From Neptunejto Market 81 

Organizational Changes 81 

Plans and Operations during the Campaign in France 83 

The Planning of MARKET 88 

Resources and Preparations 97 

Preliminary Support Operations 100 

IV Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland„.. 101 

D-day, the Pathfinders 101 

D-day, Operations in the Eindhoven Sector 102 

D-day, Operations in the Nijmegen Sector 107 

D-day, Operations in the Arnhem Sector 112 

The Balance for D-day 115 

D plus 1, Plans and Auxiliary Air Action 117 

D plus 1, Eindhoven Sector 118 

D plus 1, Nijmegen Sector 120 

D plus 1, Resupply by Bomber 123 

D plus 1, Arnhem Sector 125 

The Balance for D plus 1 127 

D plus 2, Plans and Auxiliary Air Action 127 

D plus 2, Eindhoven Sector 129 

D plus 2, Nijmegen Sector 130 

D plus 2, Arnhem Sector 131 

The Balance for D plus 2 • • 133 

D plus 3 133 

D plus 4 136 

D plus 5 140 

D plus 6 . . . 141 

D plus 7 145 

D plus 8 145 

D plus 9 and After 146 

Conclusions 149 

Varsity — The Airborne Assault Across the Rhine 156 

Preliminary Planning 156 

Development of the Assault Plan 157 

Planning for Auxiliary Air and Artillery Action 166 

Training . 168 

Briefing and Security Measures 170 

Auxiliary Air Operations 171 

The Final Decision and the Ground Assault 173 

The Lift and Initial Operations of the British Airborne Division . . . 174 

The Lift and Initial Operations of the American Paratroops 177 

The Lift and Initial Operations of the American Glider Troops .... 181 

Resupply 188 

The Exploitation of VARSITY 190 

Special Features of VARSITY 191 

Conclusions 192 

Conclusions Regarding Large-scale Airborne Operations ... 196 

Footnotes 203 

Appendix 224 

1. Statistical Tables— Operation NEPTUNE . 224 

2. Statistical Tables— Operation MARKET 226 

3. Statistical Tables— Operation VARSITY 228 

Glossary 230 

Index 234 


No. Page 

1. Operation NEPTUNE: Routes of Troop Carrier Missions 13 

2. Operation NEPTUNE: Approach and Assault Area of Airborne Missions 34 

3. Operation NEPTUNE: Assault Area 37 

4. Operation NEPTUNE: Paratroop Drop of 101st Airborne Division . . 44 

5. Operation NEPTUNE: Paratroop Drop of 82d Airborne Division ... 49 

6. Operation MARKET: Routes of Initial Troop Carrier Missions .... 92 

7. Operation MARKET: Assault Area, 101st Airborne Division 104 

8. Operation MARKET: Assault Area, 8 2d Airborne Division 108 

9. Operation MARKET: Assault Area, British and Polish Airborne Troops 113 

10. Operation MARKET-GARDEN: Battle Area . 116 

11. Operation VARSITY: Troop Carrier Routes 162 

12. Operation VARSITY: Assault Area 175 


1 . Operational Chain of Command for Airborne Operations, Allied 

Expeditionary Force, 5 June 1944 31 

2. Chain of Command for Operation MARKET, 17 September 1944 . . . 84 


Figure p age 

Waco Gliders on Landing Zone Near Wesel, Germany, 

After Operation VARSITY Frontispiece 

1. Paratrooper Boarding a C-47 20 

2. Paratroop Officer Demonstrates Jump Position 20 

3. Cockpit of a Waco Glider 21 

4. Jeep Emerging from Nose of Waco Glider 21 

5. Waco Gliders Landing in Normandy 62 

6. Remnants of Gliders in a Normandy Hedge-row 63 

7. Pick-up of a Waco Glider from a Field in Normandy . 73 

8. Horsa Glider of IX Troop Carrier Command after Landing in Normandy 74 

9. Paratroop Drop near Grave, Holland, during Operation MARKET, 

23 September 1944 127 

10. Resupply Drop from B-24's over Holland during Operation MARKET, 

18 September 1944 128 

1 1 . Troop Carrier Aircraft Carrying Paratroops in Operation VARSITY, 

24 March 1945 182 

1 1 Paratroop Drop near Wesel, Germany, during Operation VARSITY, 

24 March 1945 183 



The Airborne Invasion of Normandy - Plans and 



THE FIRST combat airborne missions in his- 
tory were flown by the Germans in 1940. 
Recognizing the possibilities of such operations, 
the British and Americans followed suit. The first 
British mission was flown in February 1941, and 
the first American mission was flown from Eng- 
land to Oran, Algeria, on 8 November 1942 as 
part of the Anglo-American invasion of North 
Africa. Other, later missions, principally in the 
Mediterranean region, provided the American 
troop carriers with an apprenticeship in airborne 
warfare.* However, until the summer of 1944 no 
force larger than a reinforced regimental combat 
team was flown into action in any Allied mission. 
In World War II the only Allied airborne opera- 
tions employing more than one division took place 
in the invasion of Normandy, the unsuccessful at- 
tempt to win a bridgehead across the Rhine at 
Arnhem, and the successful crossing of the Rhine 
at Wesel.f Consequently the study of airborne 
missions in the European Theater of Operations is 
of particular importance for the light it throws on 
the planning and performance of large-scale air- 
borne assaults. 

The invasion of Normandy occurred on 6 June 
1944, but preparations for that event had begun 
long before. British planning for an invasion of 
the Continent had been carried on as earjy as 
1941, and after the United States entered the war, 

*See USAF Historical Study 74, Airborne Missions in the 
Mediterranean, 1942-1945. For airborne operations in Burma 
and New Guinea, see W. F. Craven and J. L. Cate, The Army 
Air Forces in World War II, IV (Chicago, 1950), 181, 184-86, 
503-7, 516-17, 658-59. 

tin DRAGOON, the invasion of southern France, the troop 
carriers delivered one provisional airborne division of approxi- 
mately 9,000 men. 

President Roosevelt and his Chief of Staff, General 
George C. Marshall, concentrated unswervingly 
on that objective as the decisive action of the war. 
Actual preparations for such an invasion were 
begun early in 1942 under the code name of 
BOLERO. The BOLERO plans called for crea- 
tion of a mighty airborne force, for which the 51st 
Troop Carrier Wing and a paratroop battalion 
were sent to England that summer as the first 
American installment. 

The decision at the end of July 1942 to launch 
an invasion of North Africa before attempting an 
attack on Festung Europa postponed further plan- 
ning of the latter operation for several months. It 
also resulted in a sweeping diversion to Africa of 
men and materiel needed for an invasion of Eu- 
rope. In the spring of 1943 only one American 
division and no American airborne units remained 
in the British Isles. American airpower in the 
United Kingdom consisted of less than 12 opera- 
tional combat groups of all types, including half 
of a troop carrier group. 1 British striking power 
was similarly depleted. 

In May 1943 when the TRIDENT conference 
was held in Washington, it was obvious that be- 
tween the invasion of Sicily, scheduled for 10 
July, and the end of the summer there would not 
be time to concentrate an invasion force in the 
United Kingdom. Therefore, although at TRI- 
DENT the Allies sanctioned renewed preparations 
for an invasion of Northwest Europe, they gave it 
a target date of 1 May 1944. To this crucial 
operation they gave the name OVERLORD. On 
25 May 1943 the Combined Chiefs of Staff pledged 
a build-up to 29 divisions, two of them airborne, 
before the target date. 


2 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. 

Early Planning — The COSSAC 

These decisions were received by a planning 
headquarters, already in existence. Pending ap- 
pointment of a Supreme Allied Commander for 
the invasion, Lt. Gen. Frederick E. Morgan, a 
British officer, had been appointed on 12 March 
as Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Com- 
mander. During April Morgan had set up at 
Norfolk House in London a headquarters which 
shared with its chief the code name of COSSAC 
(taken from the initials of his title). On 14 April 
Brig. Gen. Robert C. Candee, Commanding Gen- 
eral of VIII Air Support Command, reported to 
Morgan for additional duty as Principal Staff Offi- 
cer of the AAF Branch of COSSAC. On 26 April, 
just before TRIDENT, the Combined Chiefs of 
Staff gave COSSAC a directive including in its 
responsibilities the planning of a full-scale invasion 
of the Continent in 1944. 2 

At that time the AAF commanders in England 
were struggling with the problem of working out a 
proper buildup for their forces, and the AAF 
Branch of COSSAC began its career by participat- 
ing in this task. General Candee, convinced of the 
importance of airborne operations, recommended 
a buildup to 23 American troop carrier groups 
with an assigned strength of 1,196 planes as being 
"the minimum necessary" for airborne operations 
in the invasion. Since that was almost as many 
troop carrier craft as the entire AAF possessed at 
that time, Candee's proposal seemed impracticable 
and had no immediate effect. A chart brought by 
General Stratemeyer from the United States indi- 
cated that . only nine groups would b eayailable. 
That estimate was favored by the bomber men in 
the Theater and endorsed by Maj. Gen. Follett 
Bradley, Air Inspector of the AAF, who arrived 
in England in May to assess the overall require- 
ments of the AAF for the invasion. On 25 May 
the Combined Chiefs of Staff decreed a troop car- 
rier buildup of 8V2 American groups and 7 Brit- 
ish squadrons, a total of 634 troop carrier aircraft. 
This figure remained unchanged for the next four 
months. 3 

General Morgan was convinced that OVER- 
LORD should be based on all available informa- 
tion, but designed without reference to previous 
plans. Therefore his staff surveyed the whole west 
coast of Europe before deciding late in June (as 

some British planners had done before them) that 
the grand assault should be launched against the 
coast of Normandy between the Caen area and 
the Cotentin Peninsula. Unlike its most favored 
rival, the Pas de Calais, Normandy had not been 
heavily fortified by the Germans. It had good 
beaches within fighter range of England, a great 
port in Cherbourg, and adequate sites for airfields. 

On 15 July a preliminary study on the proposed 
invasion was submitted to the British Chiefs of 
Staff, and on the 30th, COSSAC issued a father 
vague and tentative outline plan for an invasion of 
Normandy. In essence the plan called for an 
amphibious assault by three divisions against 
beaches between the mouths of the Orne and the 
Vire. The initial objective was a line running be- 
tween Grandcamp, Bayeux and Caen. Morgan 
would have preferred to land another division fur- 
ther west on the beaches of the Cotentin, but he 
had been promised barely enough landing craft 
to carry three in the initial assault. 
- At first COSSAC had been inclined to employ 
its airborne forces on the right flank near Carentan 
rather than to risk them in the Caen area. The 
634 troop carrier aircraft promised for the in- 
vasion could carry only two-thirds of a division 
at a time, and it was thought that at least a whole 
division would be needed to take Caen. On the 
other hand, Caen was the gateway to Normandy. 
In Allied possession it would be a barrier to enemy 
troops seeking to enter the invasion area from the 
east or northeast. It could also provide an entry 
into central France when the Allies were ready to 
attack out of the beachhead. So tempting a prize 
persuaded Morgan to approve an airborne assault 
against Caen. 

Between 21 and 28 July COSSAC decided on 
an initial assault by two-thirds of a British air- 
borne division to take Caen and, less definitely, 
on assaults by seven American paratroop bat- 
talions* against coastal batteries and river cross- 
ings on the right flank of the beachhead. The 
minimum number of troop carrier aircraft needed 
to carry out the program was estimated to be 799 
planes. COSSAC therefore requested at least 13 
American troop carrier groups (of 52 planes each) 
plus a reserve of 120 aircraft and crews. 

Room for additional troop carrier units would 
have to be found on Britain's crowded airfields. 

*The May estimate of airborne forces for OVERLORD had 
been increased by five American paratroop regiments. 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 3 

Fortunately, higher echelons proved sympathetic. 
For example, Lt. Gen. Ira C. Eaker, Commander 
of Eighth Air Force, wrote on 3 August that he 
believed the proposed increment could be squeezed 
in. The next step was to present the COSSAC plan 
to the Allied leaders who convened at Quebec on 
17 August 1943 for the QUADRANT conference. 
They not only approved the plan but also inti- 
mated that it might be possible to expand it. They 
offered little prospect of increasing the buildup 
of troop carrier units from the United States, but 
COSSAC was already exploring the possibility of 
getting them from other theaters of operations. 

The Mediterranean theater was a promising 
source for all kinds of reinforcements for OVER- 
LORD. Because the British' were loath to halt 
major operations in that area, decisive action to 
divert its resources was not taken at Quebec. 
However, such action was contemplated and was 
already regarded as almost certain. Soon after 
the QUADRANT meetings, negotiations to obtain 
four additional troop carrier groups from the 
Mediterranean were in full swing. By November 
the four groups were included in flow charts, and 
fields were earmarked for their use. At Cairo in 
December the Chiefs of Staff officially allocated 
\7>V2 American troop carrier groups with 880 air- 
craft for use in OVERLORD. This level was to 
be achieved by taking from Italy the 5 2d Troop 
Carrier Wing with four groups plus two squadrons 
of the 315th Troop Carrier Group. Preparations 
for their transfer to the ETO were initiated on 8 
January 1944. 4 

While the size of the airborne forces to be used 
in OVERLORD was being determined, the doc- 
trine which was to govern their employment was 
just beginning to take shape. Indeed, written doc- 
trine for airborne operations scarcely existed in 
July 1943 when the Allies invaded Sicily (Opera- 
tion HUSKY) . Allied experience in the field was 
too recent and limited. Operations in HUSKY 
had been expected to serve as a guide, but initial 
reports on them were incomplete and contradic- 
tory. As the summer progressed it became evident 
that the execution of the airborne missions in 
Sicily had been poor and their success rather 
limited. The conclusion was drawn that unless 
planning, equipment, and training could be mark- 
edly improved the premises of the COSSAC plan 
were too optimistic. 5 

Planning for HUSKY had not been well coordi- 

nated, partly because the headquarters of many of 
the commands involved had been widely separated. 
Great pains were taken to see that the several 
headquarters planning OVERLORD would work 
closely together. In HUSKY the routes selected 
for the troop carriers had been much too compli- 
cated and difficult. The planners resolved to make 
them as simple as possible for OVERLORD. Fire 
from Allied guns had disrupted two airborne mis- 
sions to Sicily in spite of the establishment of safety 
zones and in spite of warnings to the surface 
forces. Henceforth the necessity for ample precau- 
tions against such mishaps and particularly for 
keeping as far away as possible from convoys and 
naval vessels was consistently stressed. 

The principal glider mission in HUSKY had 
been a fiasco, largely because the gliders had been 
released at night over the open sea. Because of the 
glider's ability to deliver men and materiel in con- 
centrated packets, COSSAC had hitherto favored 
it over the parachute and had planned to use 350 
gliders in the initial assault. 

However, all agreed that the initial airborne 
assault in OVERLORD would require the protec- 
tion of darkness, and HUSKY had confirmed 
earlier opinions that glider missions should not be 
flown at night except perhaps in fair weather under 
a full moon. Chances of getting fair weather and 
a full moon simultaneously for OVERLORD were 
less than 50 percent. These circumstances explain 
why responsibility for the initial assault came to 
rest with the paratroops. 

Faulty navigation at night in the Sicilian mis- 
sions had caused dispersion of the paratroop drops 
over the entire southeastern portion of the island. 
These errors stimulated a search for means to 
guide the troop carriers to their objectives in spite 
of darkness or bad weather. One remedy was the 
dropping of pathfinder troops before the arrival of 
an airborne mission to mark drop or landing zones. 
Some experimentation with pathfinder teams using 
visual aids had been done, and the need to provide 
guidance for formations which otherwise might 
pass many miles outside visual range led to con- 
sideration of radio and radar beacons for path- 
finder use. Most promising of these was the Eu- 
reka, a simple, light, durable instrument which 
could be dropped by parachute and be put into 
operation within five minutes. Its responses to 
the signals of an airborne interrogator called Re- 
becca gave an accurate bearing and a fair indica- 

4 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. 

tion of distance at ranges which varied considerably 
with conditions but were generally over 10 miles. 
After pathfinder teams equipped with Eureka 
proved effective in guiding airborne missions dur- 
ing the invasion of Italy it was generally accepted 
that pathfinder tactics would be employed in 

The American CG-4A glider, commonly known 
as the Waco, had proved combat-worthy in Sicily, 
but it was small, unable either to carry over 3,750 
pounds or to take a gun and its prime mover in 
one load. Made of fabric with a tubular steel 
frame, the Waco was durable except for its nose, 
which was weak and easily crushed. Also, the 
nose, which was hinged to swing outward and up, 
was the only door, so that if the glider skidded 
into an obstacle, as commonly happened in Sicily, 
the cargo would be sealed in. 

The British had developed a plywood glider, 
the Horsa, which could carry 6,700 pounds and 
could contain both a 75-mm. howitzer and a jeep 
to tow it. Early models had two passenger doors 
and a cargo door in the sides. The Horsa, although 
liable to break loose in flight and to splinter on 
landing, did well enough in Sicily to interest the 
Americans in adopting it. This interest grew after 
tests conducted in August proved that a C-47 
could tow a Horsa, albeit with some difficulty. The 
British also had a giant glider, the Hamilcar, with 
a capacity of 17,500 pounds. Few in numbers and 
as yet untested in combat, the Hamilcar required 
an exceptionally powerful four-engined airplane 
to tow it. The American troop carriers conse- 
quently regarded it as unsuitable for their use. 

HUSKY had revealed at least as much about 
the troop carrier crews as about their equipment. 
Some analysts considered that the greatest single 
lesson of the airborne operations in Sicily was that 
troop carrier crews needed far more training in 
night flying, especially night flying in formation. 
Weakness in this field had caused a tremendous 
amount of straggling and excessively loose forma- 
tions. Almost all aspects of glider training had 
been shown to need improvement. 

These shortcomings and others should have been 
revealed by a rehearsal, but there had been no 
rehearsal and few realistic exercises by the troop 
carriers before HUSKY.* The planners resolved 
that before OVERLORD the troop carriers would 

*The reasons for this situation are explained in USAF His- 
torical Study 74, Airborne Missions in the Mediterranean, 1942- 
1945, Chap. III. 

be thoroughly trained in night flying and glider 
work and that their proficiency would be tested 
by numerous exercises capped by a realistic 
rehearsal. 6 

The command structure under which troop car- 
rier operations in the European theater were to 
be conducted developed gradually. In June 1943 
Air Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory, chief of the 
RAF Fighter Command, had been named pro- 
visionally to head the air planners of COSSAC, 
and at Quebec in August the Allies had agreed to 
designate him as commander in chief of their tac- 
tical air forces in OVERLORD. After a period 
of discussion over the extent of its authority, his 
command, the Allied Expeditionary Air Force, 
was established in November. Headquarters, 
AEAF was located at Stanmore, a dozen miles 
northwest of London, but a delegation was left at 
Norfolk House to collaborate with COSSAC. 

Immediate, full, and direct control of the Second 
Tactical Air Force, RAF, Air Defense of Great 
Britain, and the RAF 38 Group was given to 
AEAF as of 15 November. All British troop car- 
rier operations were in the hands of 38 Group. 
Equivalent in size to an American wing, it was 
equipped with converted bombers good for glider 
work but ill-suited for paratroop operations. The 
British planned to expand 38 Group to 9 squad- 
Tons with 180 aircraft in time for OVERLORD. 
In December, as a result of pressure to enlarge 
the airborne assault, the RAF decided to establish 
another troop carrier group. The tactical air com- 
manders had asked the Air Ministry for a loan of 
150 Dakotas (British C-47's) from the RAF Trans- 
port Command and at least 150 bombers from 
Bomber Command for use in OVERLORD. The 
bombers were not forthcoming, but the Dakotas 
were. On 17 January 1944 this new force was 
organized as the RAF 46 Group. It was to be 
under operational control of 38 Group until after 
OVERLORD and would then revert to Transport 
Command. 7 

American tactical air units in England had been 
organized on 16 October 1943 into the Ninth Air 
Force under the command of Maj. Gem JLewis H. 
Brereton, a veteran who within the past two years 
had commanded air forces in a wide variety of 
combat activities in four theaters of operations. 
Simultaneously with the creation of Ninth Air 
Force, IX Troop Carrier Command was activated 
as one of its components, replacing a provisional 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 5 

command set up by the Eighth Air Force in Sep- 
tember. Its commander was Brig. Gen. Benjamin 
F. Giles. However, even before General Giles 
assumed his command, it was understood that 
Brig. Gen. Paul L. Williams, who had directed 
the troop carriers during almost all the Allied air- 
borne operations in the Mediterranean theater, 
would take over IX Troop Carrier Command 
before intensive preparation for OVERLORD was 
begun. 8 When activated the troop carrier com- 
mand had under it only one recently arrived troop 
carrier group, the 434th, and a detachment of the 
315th Group with two or three planes.* The 435th 
Group and the headquarters of the 50th Troop 
1 Carrier Wing arrived from the United States be- 
fore the end of the year. 9 

On 15 December AEAF received operational 
control of Ninth Air Force and its components. 
In the case of the troop carriers this control was 
to be unusually direct and complete. Leigh-Mal- 
lory regarded the coming airborne operations as 
subject to his special prerogative. He stated as a 
matter of course that planning for airborne opera- 
tions would be done between his headquarters and 
21 Army Group, which was to command the 
ground forces in the assault phase of OVER- 
LORD. Coordination of plans for such operations 
with other outside agencies was also to be handled 
by AEAF, and it was to have the final say in 
arrangements for fighter protection, routing, alti- 
tude, timing, and recognition procedure in air- 
borne missions. Although subordinate commands 
would participate, all of the planning except such 
details as could be worked out between troop 
carrier wings and the ground units they 
were to carry was to be concentrated in AEAF 

On 6 December Leigh-Mallory announced that 
the launching of airborne forces would be the 
responsibility of his headquarters. At a conference 
three days later he asserted that AEAF should 
have direct operational control, not only of 38 
Group, but also of Ninth Air Force's subsidiary, 
IX Troop Carrier Command, and he -got an 
expression of agreement on this point from 
Brereton. 10 

Debatable points in the airborne planning were 

*At that time an American troop carrier group was com- 
posed of a headquarters with 4 aircraft and 4 squadrons with 
12 planes apiece. About half of the 315th Group had reached 
England early in 1943, but most of the planes and crews had 
been flown to North Africa in May to supplement the troop 
carrier forces committeed to HUSKY and had been kept there. 

ironed out at meetings of the Airborne-Air Plan- 
ning Committee. This organization, established 
in December, included Leigh-Mallory, the British 
and American troop carrier commanders, the prin- 
cipal British and American airborne commanders, 
and such other persons as might be needed on a 
given occasion. At its meetings Leigh-Mallory 
presided and usually played a dominant role. 11 

At times the AEAF commander acted as though 
his operational and planning authority included the 
right to direct supervision of troop carrier training. 
Brereton insisted sharply that such supervision be 
exercised indirectly through the Ninth Air Force. 
Even this indirect authority was challenged by 
USSTAF which, as the highest AAF headquarters 
in the United Kingdom in 1944, claimed to have 
sole authority over the training of Ninth Air Force. 
In practice the troop carrier command was in 
constant close consultation with both AEAF and 
the Ninth Air Force in training matters, but had 
very little to do with USSTAF. 12 

One important link in the chain of command 
controlling airborne operations in Normandy was 
not forged until the spring of 1944. On 27 January 
the Airborne-Air Planning Committee recom- 
mended that a joint troop carrier operations room 
and command post be set up for IX Troop Carrier 
Command, 38 Group, and 46 Group in the Ux- 
bridge area near AEAF headquarters for use 
during large-scale exercises and operations. Leigh- 
Mallory favored the idea, and on 21 February it 
was agreed that such a post should be established. 
A suitable room was found at Eastcote Place, and 
on 9 April IX Troop Carrier Command set up an 
advance command post there. The facilities at 
Eastcote were tested in a subsequent exercise and 
proved very satisfactory. Under the title of Troop 
Carrier Command Post this was the point from 
which troop carrier operations in the invasion 
were directed. 13 

During the autumn of 1943 Leigh-Mallory 
played the leading part in an interesting episode 
affecting airborne planning. In October General 
Morgan had visited Washington to discuss OVER- 
LORD with American military leaders. There Lt. 
Gen. H. H. Arnold, Chief of the United States 
Army Air Forces, presented him with a plan, sup- 
ported by the chief of staff, General George C. 
Marshall, to make OVERLORD predominantly an 
airborne operation. As many as three airborne and 
air transported divisions were to be delivered to a 

6 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. 

strategic point well inland from the French coast. 
This force was to sever enemy communications 
and strike out in all directions until such time as 
sea-landed forces made contact with it. 

Feeling the need for assistance in so momentous 
a matter, the COSSAC commander called for 
Leigh-Mallory. He arrived about the end of Oc- 
tober and after examining the project gave his 
verdict against it. In the first place, Leigh-Mallory 
observed, the allotted troop carrier aircraft could 
not lift much more than one division at a time. 
Secondly, Leigh-Mallory had a somewhat exag- 
gerated idea of what German guns and planes 
could do to an airborne mission. Thirdly, he 
believed, in company with most experts at that 
time, that airborne units should not be expected 
to operate against a strong enemy for more than 
a day or two before junction with friendly ground 
forces. Tailored to the limited capacity of the 
C-47, an American airborne division had no 
armor, no vehicle bigger than a jeep and less than 
half the firepower of an infantry division. Some 
consideration had been given to using Hamilcar 
gliders to carry tanks or big guns in OVERLORD, 
but the Hamilcars were few in number, and only 
one squadron in 38 Group had planes capable of 
towing them. Resupply by air was still in the 
experimental stage and was viewed with some 
skepticism. For instance, on 1 January 1944 the 
AEAF Chief of Operations wrote that he did not 
believe large ground forces in action would ever be 
wholly supplied by air. The number of aircraft 
required would, he thought, be prohibitive. On 
such grounds as these the AAF plan was rejected. 
However, the exponents of "vertical envelopment" 
were not discouraged. They revised their plans 
and bided their time to make a new proposal. 14 

It appeared settled that the airborne troops 
would not be used independently; but exploration 
of how they would be used had barely begun. In 
December, 21 Army Group had initiated prepara- 
tion of a plan for OVERLORD. Syndicates repre- 
senting appropriate ground, air, and naval com- 
mands were set up at the army group headquarters, 
St. Paul's School, in London to examine various 
aspects of the invasion. 

One syndicate, analyzing the threat of counter- 
attack by German armored forces, observed that 
the roads to the proposed beachhead converged 
on Caen at its eastern end and on Bayeux in the 
center of the area. Consequently plans were laid 

for the employment of a British airborne brigade 
at points east of Caen to block the crossings of the 
Orne and for drops and landings southeast and 
southwest of Bayeux by American airborne units 
to cut highways leading to that town. 

Airborne operations around Bayeux had one 
grave drawback. The terrain outside the town was 
open with few obstacles to deter enemy armor 
from overrunning the positions of the lightly armed 
airborne troops. However, within a few days the 
problem became academic when the accession of 
new commanders produced fundamental changes 
in the nature of OVERLORD. 15 

Shaping the Outline Plans 

Firm planning for OVERLORD could not be- 
gin until the Supreme Commander of the Allied 
Expeditionary Force (SCAEF)* was chosen. On 
5 December the choice fell on Lt. Gen. Dwight D. 
Eisenhower, who had commanded the Allied forces 
in the Mediterranean theater ever since their first 
landings in North Africa. Shortly thereafter Gen- 
eral Bernard L. Montgomery, who was famed for 
his victory at El Alamein and who had served 
under Eisenhower as commander of the British 
Eighth Army in the Tunisian, Sicilian, and Italian 
campaigns, was named commander of 21 Army 
Group. Under him two other veterans of the 
Mediterranean campaigns, Lt. Gen. Omar N. 
Bradley and Lt. Gen. Miles C. Dempsey respec- 
tively, were to command the First United States 
Army and the British Second Army. 

These appointments were the harbingers of 
change, for on learning of the COSSAC plan both 
Eisenhower and Montgomery immediately became 
convinced that the assault was too weak and on 
too narrow a front. On 2 January 1944, Mont- 
gomery arrived in England to act as Eisenhower's 
representative pending the latter's arrival. No 
sooner had he been briefed on the COSSAC pro- 
gram than he threw all the weight of his strong 
personality and great prestige into an effort to 
expand the initial assault to a strength of five 
divisions, even threatening to resign his command 
if the change were not made. By 6 January plan- 
ning on the old basis had been halted, and ways 

*Eisenhower's headquarters was commonly known as 
SHAEF, an abbreviation of its full title, Supreme Headquarters, 
Allied Expeditionary Force. 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 7 

and means to mount the larger assault were under 
consideration at COSSAC. 16 

On 14 January Eisenhower arrived in England 
to support the new dispensation, and to take over 
from COSSAC the responsibility for OVER- 
LORD. On the 21st Eisenhower held at Norfolk 
House the first two meetings of his principal com- 
manders. There Montgomery presented the case 
for a five-division assault on a front extended west- 
ward onto the Cotentin peninsula. The United 
States First Army would drive ashore with two 
divisions, one a little way northwest of Bayeux, 
the other at the base of the Cotentin. Three divi- 
sions of British Second Army would land between 
Bayeux and Ouistreham. The meeting endorsed 
the proposal, and, accordingly, on the night of 23 
January a message was sent to the Combined 
Chiefs of Staff asking their assent. This was given 
on the 31st. 

Obtaining the additional landing craft required 
for the enlarged assault was to prove extremely 
difficult. To get more time to obtain these boats 
the CCS on 3 1 January postponed the target date 
for OVERLORD from 1 May to 1 June,* but not 
until 21 March did they finally make up their 
minds to meet the needs of OVERLORD by tak- 
ing from the Mediterranean assault craft hitherto 
earmarked for ANVIL, an invasion of southern 

Planning could not be postponed to await this 
decision. On 15 January 21 Army Group, assum- 
ing that the five-division plan would receive both 
official approval and the necessary shipping, had 
set up new interservice syndicates. They were di- 
rected to produce by the end of the month an 
initial joint plan from which further planning on 
Army-Air Force levels could proceed. 17 

The situation of the American division which 
was to land on the Cotentin peninsula was perilous 
enough to warrant special attention. Its beach, a 
mile of hard sand later christened UTAH, near the 
village of St. Martin-de-Varreville, was fenced in 
by two natural barriers. Behind it lay a swampy 
area which the Germans had flooded. Four cause- 
ways which crossed this flooded land had to be 
taken if the Americans were not to be confined 
to the beach. On the left was a second barrier, 
the marshy valleys of the Douve, Vire, and Taute, 

*This postponement was welcome to Leigh-Mallory, who 
had already requested such a delay to provide more time for 
troop carrier training. 

which lay between the Cotentin and the rest of the 
invasion area. Since practically all routes across 
those valleys centered on the town of Carentan, 
the Germans by holding that town could isolate the 
UTAH force,* which might then be defeated or at 
least effectively contained. 

On the other hand, if airborne troops seized 
the causeways and cleared the way for an advance 
across the Douve, the UTAH force might take 
Carentan on D-day and establish contact with the 
other assault divisions. It would then be free to 
make a quick stab northward toward the valuable 
port of Cherbourg. 

An airborne mission in the UTAH area was 
both feasible and relatively safe. Ample drop 
zones were available. The marshy, stream-girt 
meadows behind the coast were full of obstacles to 
enemy armor. No strong German forces were 
known to be in the vicinity, and the airborne 
troops could be reinforced within a few hours by 
guns and tanks from the beaches. 

These considerations had led First Army to 
conclude almost as soon as it began planning the 
UTAH operation that an American airborne divi- 
sion should be employed behind the beaches to 
support the UTAH landing. Montgomery so far 
approved the plan as to include it in his presenta- 
tion on 21 January, and at first Leigh-Mallory 
welcomed it as a change from the airborne opera- 
tions in the Caen area for which, he said, he had 
never cared. 18 

Thus endorsed, the drop behind UTAH Beach 
was duly established in the NEPTUNE f Initial 
Joint Plan issued on 1 February. According to 
that plan a second airborne division would attack 
within twenty-four hours after the first, but whether 
its objective would be in the British or the Ameri- 
can sector was still under discussion. The British 
continued to want an operation near Caen to hold 
the line of the Orne, and General Bradley was 
much interested in plans to place an American 
airborne division on the west side of the Cotentin. 
Plans for a third airborne operation were left in- 
definite because, although four airborne divisions 
and several smaller units were on hand, it was 
very doubtful whether there would be enough 
troop carrier aircraft for three large-scale lifts. On 

*See Map No. 3, p. 37. 

tAbout this time the code word NEPTUNE came to be used 
for the assault on Normandy, the term OVERLORD being 
restricted to later phases of the invasion or to the invasion as 
a whole. 

8 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. 

24 January Leigh-Mallory had pointed out the 
hard fact that he had only enough planes to carry 
one division at a time. The attrition of two haz- 
ardous operations might reduce the number of 
troop carriers operational to a much lower level. 19 

As a result of this situation renewed efforts to 
get additional troop carrier strength had been 
made during January. Proposals for expansion of 
38 Group won support from the Prime Minister, 
Winston Churchill, and by 23 February had been 
approved by the Air Ministry. The Group was to 
be raised in time for NEPTUNE to a strength of 
212 first-line aircraft and 36 reserves. 

Meanwhile Eisenhower had appealed to Wash- 
ington for aircraft and crews sufficient to provide 
IX Troop Carrier Command with a striking force 
of,832 planes plus 208 reserves. The AAF had a 
shortage of trained crews and barely enough C-47's 
in prospect to meet his request after filling existing 
commitments. Nevertheless, on 31 January the 
Operational Plans Division of AAF Headquarters 
worked out a solution. The departure of the last 
troop carrier group scheduled for spring delivery 
would be speeded so that it would have time to 
participate in preparations for OVERLORD. The 
troop carrier groups in England would be ex- 
panded by 1 April from 52 aircraft and crews 
apiece to a recently established T/O strength of 
64 plus 9 in reserve. Thus IX Troop Carrier 
Command would have 13V2 groups with 986 air- 
craft available for OVERLORD. On 19 February 
the War Department formally notified Eisenhower 
that these measures had been approved. 

Ultimately Washington found it possible to send 
enough additional crews so that over 1,100 were 
in England at the time of the invasion, but the 
basic planning for the airborne operations in NEP- 
TUNE was on the basis of the February 
estimates. 20 

While the wheels of the War Department were 
turning to supply additional troop carriers for 
OVERLORD, AAF Headquarters produced a 
plan for a large-scale airborne operation deep in 
enemy territory. Prepared by Brig. Gen. Frederick 
W. Evans, head of I Troop Carrier Command, and 
Col. Bruce W. Bidwell of the Operational Plans 
Division, this plan was approved by General Mar- 
shall, on 7 February and flown to England a few 
days later. 

With it went a letter from Marshall in which, 
while disclaiming any desire to exert undue pres- 

sure, he expressed to Eisenhower his strong per- 
sonal support of the project. He criticized previous 
airborne operations as piecemeal, indecisive, and 
narrowly conceived. As for objections to the plan 
on grounds that nothing like it had been done 
before, he commented ". . . frankly that reaction 
makes me tired." 21 

The enterprise which so appealed to him was a 
parachute and glider assault between Evreux and 
Dreux by two reinforced airborne divisions on the 
night of D minus 1. In that area, some 70 miles 
east of Caen and 40 miles west of Paris were four 
large airfields. These would be seized and used 
for airlanding of two additional reinforced divi- 
sions before daylight on D plus 1. At least 1,250 
tons a day of supplies would be delivered by 600 
C-47's flying by night and 200 heavy bombers 
operating by day. The initial objective of the air- 
borne troops after consolidating their position 
would be the Seine crossings below Paris. All of 
these were within striking distance of the airhead. 

General Eisenhower gave the plan full consid- 
eration, but at a meeting with his subordinate 
commanders on 18 February he went on record 
as rejecting it. His objections were based on the 
immobility of the airborne troops after landing. 
This, together with their limited firepower and lack 
of armor, might permit the Germans to surround 
and -destroy them if the forces in the amphibious 
assault were not able to move rapidly to their 
assistance. He also feared that their aerial resup- 
ply might be seriously interrupted by weather or 
enemy action. Eisenhower's view was that the 
time for such massed and deep penetrations by 
airborne forces would come when the Allies were 
established on the Continent and in position for a 
breakthrough. 22 

Since in actuality the Allies were unable to 
break out of their Normandy beachhead for a 
month and a half after D-day, Eisenhower's fear 
that under the Evans plan his airborne forces 
might be destroyed before ground assistance could 
reach them seems justified by events. 

After 1 February planning responsibility for 
NEPTUNE passed from SHAEF to the appropri- 
ate army and air force commanders. The pro- 
posals of the former for airborne operations were 
presented at an interservice meeting on 23 Febru- 
ary. There General Bradley won a second decision 
in favor of the use of an airborne division behind 
UTAH Beach. His emphatic statement that seiz- 

'.e Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 9 

ure of the exits from the beach was vital to his 
assault plan outweighed protests from Leigh-Mal- 
lory that the area near UTAH was not well suited 
to glider operations and was defended by peril- 
ously large numbers of antiaircraft installations. 

The lift of an American airborne division to 
take the UTAH causeways would require 800 of 
the 1,154 troop carrier aircraft which were to be 
available.* The commanders agreed on the 23d 
that the remaining 354 planes should go to the 
British for missions carrying two brigades on D 
minus 1 to take or destroy bridges east of Caen. 
The two brigades (each roughly equivalent to an 
American regiment) would have a very tight 

Both Bradley and Dempsey wanted their air- 
borne troops delivered on the night of D minus 1. 
Leigh-Mallory conceded that paratroop operations 
would be possible by moonlight but reserved judg- 
ment on the feasibility of glider landings at night. 
He also disliked the idea of having to furnish 
fighter escorts for two simultaneous airborne 

General Bradley had proposed that a second 
American airborne division be dropped and landed 
in an area on the west side of the Cotentin north- 
west of La Haye du Puits after the first two air- 
borne missions were completed. Leigh-Mallory 
argued that zones south of La Haye were prefer- 
able, and decision on that point was postponed. 
On 2 March the Initial Joint Plan was amended 
to provide specifically for three airborne opera- 
tions, but the exact timing and location of the 
second American assault was left open. 23 

Shortly thereafter it was settled that this opera- 
tion would take place, as Bradley desired, north- 
west of La Haye du Puits on the night of D-day /D 
plus 1. North of La Haye, entrance to the west 
side of the Cotentin had to be gained through a 
four mile strip of dry land west of the Douve 
marshes or over a causeway two miles east of St. 
Sauveur de Pierre Pont. If one airborne division 
could block that bottleneck, while another seized 
or destroyed the bridges over the Douve in the 
UTAH area, the Cotentin would be effectively 
sealed against either the reinforcement or the es- 
cape of its Nazi garrison. However, since the La 
Haye area was more than 20 miles away from 
UTAH Beach, it might be several days before 

* Assuming a force of 986 American and 398 British planes 
of which 230 planes would be held in reserve. 

American ground forces could reach it. Because 
of this prospect of hard fighting in an isolated 
position the experienced 82d Airborne Division 
was chosen to strike there, and the operation in 
the UTAH sector was given to the 101st Airborne 

The commanders agreed that the British air- 
borne operation east of Caen could be handled by 
38 Group and 46 Group. However, because of 
the small size of the British troop carrier force, IX 
Troop Carrier Command might have to assist it 
if further missions by the British airborne were 
undertaken. Later it was planned that the troop 
carrier command might help carry the British 1 
Airborne Division in an operation after D plus 6 
or make an emergency drop of a British paratroop 
brigade to reinforce the beachhead. However, it 
was never called upon to carry out those 
missions.* 24 

Detailed Planning 

After 23 February detailed study of the pro- 
posed airborne operations was begun by the Air- 
borne Operations Staff, AEAF and by the staffs of 
IX Troop Carrier Command, 38 Group, and the 
airborne divisions, with the Airborne-Air Planning 
Committee serving as a central forum. The most 
heated controversy arose over the question of 
whether to attempt glider missions at night. 

The troop carriers and Leigh-Mallory stood to- 
gether against this and against landings at day- 
break as involving excessive operational difficulties. 
They proposed that the gliders of the 101st Divi- 
sion be landed at dusk on D minus 1, but this was 
ruled out as forewarning the enemy of the main 
operation. On the other hand, General Bradley 
insisted on having 260 gliders landed by early 
morning of D-day to facilitate the capture of 
Carentan. Impatient with objections of the air 
commanders, he declared that if gliders could not 
carry out missions in the proposed areas they were 
of no value as weapons of war, and that if the 

*Since the British and American airborne missions to Nor- 
mandy were geographically and tactically separate, and since 
tne Americans did not participate in the British missions, fur- 
ther discussion of British operations will be limited to matters 
of mutual concern and to brief comments for purposes of com- 

For accounts of the British airborne operations in Nor- 
mandy see Air Ministry (A.H.B.) Airborne Forces (London, 
1951); Richard N. Gale, With the 6th Airborne Division in 
Normandy (London, 1948); and Hilary St. G. Saunders, The 
Red Beret (London, 1950). 

10 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. 

glider troops of the 101st could not be delivered 
and ready for action before noon on D-day, he 
would prefer to take them in by boat. Maj. Gen. 
Matthew B. Ridgway, commander of the 8 2d 
Division, also wanted his glider echelon brought 
in as early as possible, preferably with the para- 
troops, to provide artillery* against possible pan- 
zer attacks. 25 

Up to the middle of April it appeared that Brad- 
ley and Ridgway would have their way, that 260 
gliders would land at dawn in the 101st Division's 
operation and 410 gliders would participate in 
the initial assault of the 82d Division. However, 
doubt was cast on the feasibility of this procedure 
by a test landing under realistic conditions at dawn 
on 18 April. Although only one major accident 
occurred there were many minor ones, and only 
half of the 48 gliders involved in the test could be 
flown away. On the 24th the issue was still in 
doubt, but by the 28th all gliders had been omitted 
from the initial missions and a new plan established 
under which the paratroops of both divisions 
would go in on the night of D minus 1. At dawn 
on D-day each division would be reinforced by 
about 50 gliders. Such small missions would be 
easy to escort, could be landed quickly and would 
not crowd small landing areas. Another glider 
mission would be delivered at dusk for the 82d 
Division and others thereafter at times as yet 
undetermined. 26 

The number of gliders to be sent in the evening 
on D-day was the subject of some misunderstand- 
ing and dispute. At first General Williams sup- 
posed it had been set at 150, while Bradley's staff 
held out for 200. Finally, late in May, it was 
decided that 176 gliders should be sent at that 
time for the 82d Division and 32 for the 101st. 
Later missions to the 8 2d Division, being both 
safer and less urgent, had been agreed on by the 
end of April. One mission of 100 gliders would 
go early on the morning of D plus 1, and another 
100 would arrive at dusk. A parachute resupply 
mission by 185 planes would be flown on the night 
of D plus 1, and another parachute or glider mis- 
sion of indefinite size would be flown on the next 
night. 27 

The main features of the American airborne 
operations seemed to have been settled; however, 

*Only two or three battalions of parachute field artillery 
were available and events in Sicily had raised doubts as to 
whether they could be used effectively. 

late in May they had to be radically revised as a 
result of defensive measures taken by the enemy. 
Until the spring of 1944 the Germans had con- 
centrated on defense of the Pas de Calais and 
neglected Normandy. Then Hitler in one of his 
flashes of intuition called attention to the likeli- 
hood of Allied invasion of Normandy or Brittany, 
and in April German intelligence analysts sub- 
stantiated his suggestion. While still inclined to 
think that the main assault would be elsewhere, 
the High Command recognized that Normandy 
was in danger and that the Cotentin was peculiarly 
suitable for an airborne operation. 28 

One answer to this threat was to fortify Nor- 
mandy to the point of impregnability. Fortunately 
for the Allies the Germans lacked time, men, and 
materials to do the job thoroughly, but the Coten- 
tin did break out with a rash of entrenchments 
and obstacles. These were particularly dangerous 
to the 82d Division. One of the drop zones orig- 
inally selected by it was later described by Brig. 
Gen. James M. Gavin, as "the most thorough job 
of anti-airborne organization I have ever seen." 29 
Photographic reconnaissance confirming these 
developments caused anxiety but no change in 
plan. Late in May came more serious news. The 
Germans had reinforced the 243d and 709th 
Divisions, already known to be in the Cotentin, 
with the 91st Infantry Division, the 6th Parachute 
Regiment and some lesser units. Thus German 
reinforcements, which it was the mission of the 82d 
Airborne to bar from the Cotentin, were already 
there in sufficient strength to give the 8 2d a very 
hard fight. The move also increased the chances 
that the 101st Airborne would meet strong opposi- 
tion. If so, that division, which had been assigned 
to take an area of some 40 square miles containing 
14 important objectives, might need some 
assistance. 30 

The possibility of such a situation had not been 
entirely unforeseen, and obviously the solution 
was to shift the 82d Division into a position where 
it and the 101st would be mutually supporting. 
On 26 May the old plan was canceled. On the 
27th a meeting was held at Bristol to make a new 
one. First Army proposed that the 82d Division 
be dropped near the town of Ste Mere Eglise to 
cover the right flank of the 101st, but VII Corps, 
which was in charge of the UTAH assault, pre- 
ferred to have the division placed west of the 
Merderet to establish bridgeheads over that river. 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 1 1 

This had the virtue of keeping the two divisions 
far enough apart to avoid confusion during the 
paratroop drops, but there were not enough good 
drop and landing zones on the west side of the 
Merderet for a whole division. The outcome was 
a compromise by which two paratroop regiments 
of the 8 2d would drop on the west side of the river 
and one near Ste Mere Eglise. At first all gliders 
of the 8 2d Division were to land southeast of Ste 
Mere Eglise, close to the paratroops of the 101st, 
but later it was arranged that the initial glider 
mission of the division should land northwest of 
that town in position to make quick contact with 
the paratroop regiment there. Only one change 
was made in the plans of the 101st Division, but 
that was important. Hitherto a single battalion of 
the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) had 
been assigned to cover the southern perimeter of 
the division. Now the 501st PIR, previously as- 
signed to take Ste Mere Eglise, was shifted south 
to reinforce that sector. It had proved possible to 
change drop and landing zones without changing 
loading plans, but the timing and route of the mis- 
sions had to be revised. 31 

The staff of the 8 2d Division, well aware of the 
increasingly hazardous nature of their original op- 
eration, welcomed the new one "without a single 
regret." 32 On the other hand, the situation led the 
already pessimistic Leigh-Mallory to lose all faith 
in the chances of the American airborne opera- 
tions. The AEAF commander appealed to Eisen- 
hower in person and in writing to cancel the 
missions on the ground that enemy antiaircraft 
might shoot down half the parachute force and 70 
percent of the gliders, and that the reinforced 
German troops would overwhelm such airborne 
forces as succeeded in landing. Eisenhower, 
though much perturbed, refused to accept the 
recommendation. He considered that the airborne 
missions were feasible and that their risks were 
warranted by their value. Without them the UTAH 
landing might fail, and its failure would cripple 
the whole assault. Therefore the Supreme Com- 
mander took the responsibility for having the mis- 
sions carried out. 33 

Until May, planning for the protection of the 
airborne missions had of necessity remained un- 
settled pending decisions on the nature and timing 
of the missions themselves. The Allied command- 
ers, particularly Leigh-Mallory, had been anxi- 
ously aware throughout their planning of the 

danger presented by German aircraft and antiair- 
craft. It was conservatively estimated during the 
spring that the Germans would have at least 850 
usable aircraft in northwest France on D-day and 
that over 200 of them would be first-line fighters.* 
This later proved an accurate estimate. Allied 
airmen hoped to cripple these forces by pounding 
their airfields, but had little expectation of knock- 
ing them out. They anticipated that as many as 
1,000 sorties a day might be made by the GAF. 
Since German warning radar was capable of pick- 
ing up the troop carrier formations more than 30 
miles off the coast, the risk of fighter interception 
in daylight missions, particularly glider missions, 
appeared great. German night fighters were not 
numerous in Normandy but had to be watched for. 
Antiaircraft fire was considered very dangerous. 
The whole tip of the Cotentin north of a line from 
les Pieux to Quineville was known to be infested 
with light and heavy guns, and intense fire was to 
be expected all along the east coast. 34 

To protect the airborne operations against these 
perils the Allies relied on avoidance, deception, 
and powerful air support. By 12 April IX Troop 
Carrier Command had planned and won approval 
for a route which avoided most antiaircraft con- 
centrations by entering the Cotentin through the 
back door. 

The assembly point of the 52d Troop Carrier 
Wing was to be about 20 miles east of Birming- 
ham. From there the serials of that wing would 
fly southwest for 60 miles to the head of the Severn 
estuary and south for another 60 miles to the 
Command Assembly Point ELKO. The assembly 
points of the 50th and 53d Wings were respectively 
23 miles west-southwest and 28 miles northeast of 
ELKO. From the Command Assembly Point all 
units would fly south-southwest for 30 miles to 
the Command Departure Point (FLATBUSH), at 
the tip of the sandy cape called Portland Bill. 
Thence they would go straight on over the sea for 
57 miles to a point at 49° 45' 30" N, 02° 56' 30" 
W (HOBOKEN) at which they would make a 90 
degree turn to the left and fly a 54-mile leg between 
Alderney and Guernsey, just out of range of the 
antiaircraft on either island, to the Initial Point 

*Some later estimates, based on German efforts to conserve 
strength during the spring, were more pessimistic. On 5 June 
Ninth Air Force calculated that the Germans had 1,099 usable 
aircraft, including 634 fighters, in position for employment 

^ ln oi X? R e L ?? I l b ^ D PlUS *• (Ltr ' H£ i 9th AF Adv to 

CG 9th AF, Subj: Estimated Scale of Effort of the GAF 
Against Operation "OVERLORD," 5 Jun 44, in 533.451-632A.) 

12 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. 

(PEORIA) on the west coast of the Cotentin about 
six miles north of the towns of Carteret and Barne- 
ville. Although the coastline there was not particu- 
larly distinctive, PEORIA was on the straightest 
possible route to the objectives. Directly ahead 
about 11 miles away was the area northwest of 
La Haye which was then the destination of the 
82d Division. A slight turn to the left at the IP 
and a 25-mile flight would bring the 101st Division 
to its drop and landing zones behind UTAH 
Beach. Rather than risk passing over the anti- 
aircraft batteries along the east coast and the 
Allied convoys off UTAH Beach all serials were to 
turn to the right after accomplishing their mission 
and return on a reciprocal course. 

Discovery by German warning radar was to be 
delayed as long as possible by keeping below 
1,500 feet over England and descending to 500 
feet over the Channel. On reaching Normandy the 
troop carrier formations would climb to 1,500 feet 
to reduce the effectiveness of small arms fire. The 
route had the added virtues of avoiding the dense 
concentrations of aircraft operating from eastern 
and central England and giving a wide berth to 
the Allied convoys headed for Normandy. 

The Allied naval commander agreed to set up 
a 10-mile safety corridor along the route, to notify 
his forces of the missions, and to instruct them that 
troop carrier formations on proper course and 
schedule were to be allowed to pass without chal- 
lenge. Important as this precaution was, it was 
considered secondary to keeping the troop carriers 
out of range of the convoys. 33 

The revolution in troop carrier plans at the end 
of May necessitated certain changes in route. The 
concentration of German troops near the neck of 
the Cotentin, and the shift of the 82d Division's 
zones to the east exposed the troop carrier forma- 
tions to greatly increased risks from ground fire 
during their flight across Normandy. With surprise 
and darkness in their favor the groups carrying 
paratroops could risk crossing the peninsula on 
the way in, but it was tempting providence to have 
them return the same way. Consequently, between 
27 and 30 May they were given a new homeward 
route out over the east coast to the St. Marcouf 
Islands (PADUCAH), then over the water north- 
ward for 16 miles and west-northwest for 78 miles 
to rejoin the outward route at a check-point (GAL- 
LUP) 28 miles from Portland Bill. Such a course 
had been proposed previously by troop carrier 

planners but had been vetoed by naval repre- 

In order to separate the approach routes of the 
two divisions and thereby give the paratroops of 
the 8 2d Division a better chance to achieve sur- 
prise, the route of the 101st Division's paratroop 
mission from HOBOKEN to the mainland was 
swung slightly southward so that landfall would be 
made at an IP (MULESHOE) near the village of 
Portbail. The village and the inlet on which it 
was located provided excellent checkpoints. The 
run from MULESHOE to the drop zones of the 
101st was 22 miles straight ahead with the Douve 
and Merderet rivers providing several landmarks 
along the way. 

Later, after strenuous discussion, the planners 
agreed that the glider missions of the 82d and 
101st at dawn on D-day should follow the same 
routes as the paratroop missions. The dim light 
of the early morning was relied on to protect their 
approach. Not until 31 May was it decided that 
subsequent glider and resupply missions, rather 
than fly across the Cotentin by 'daylight, were to 
approach their zones from the east side of the 
peninsula, following the route by which the earlier 
missions had returned, and that they would go 
back the same way. 3G 

The new course entailed new risks. While it 
avoided the convoys as much as possible, some 
missions would pass over the UTAH assault area. 
The troop carrier spokesmen, fearing a barrage 
from the ships, asked for an absolute prohibition 
on naval antiaircraft fire at times when airborne 
missions were scheduled to pass overhead. The 
admirals objected on the grounds that a German 
air raid on the convoys might coincide with the 
passage of troop carrier formations. However, 
because of the importance attached to the airborne 
missions, the Allied naval commander did accept- 
the new routes and imposed on the naval gunners 
the prohibition requested by IX Troop Carrier 
Command. 37 

While under the revised plans the close proxim- 
ity of troop carrier and naval operations made 
aircraft recognition very important, the troop car- 
riers were limited to the use of visual recognition 
procedure. In case of challenge they could respond 
with Very pistols and Aldis lights, but they were 
forbidden to use IFF except when ditching. Early 
in April SHAEF had established a committee to 
study the possibility that the huge number of Al- 

O 1 30304050 60 70 3 90 

Map 1. 

14 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. 

lied aircraft employed in the invasion might satu- 
rate the IFF system and cause it to break down. 
The committee reported on 2 May that without 
severe restrictions on the use of IFF such a result 
was to be expected. Consequently an interservice 
meeting on 9 May agreed to limit the use of IFF 
in the invasion mainly to night-fighters and carrier- 
based planes. 38 

One way to distinguish Allied aircraft from 
those of the enemy was to paint them with distinc- 
tive markings. In early May IX Troop Carrier 
Command was still thinking of camouflaging its 
planes, but since the decision not to use IFF made 
visual identification almost essential, it was ruled 
that certain types of aircraft including the troop 
carriers would be marked. Some SHAEF experts 
questioned whether it would be worthwhile to 
paint gliders as well as aircraft, but on 17 May 
Leigh-Mallory "decreed that this, too, would be 
done. The pattern chosen for troop carrier craft 
consisted of three white and two black stripes, 
each two feet wide, around the fuselage back of 
the door and from front to back on the wings. To 
familiarize the naval forces with these markings 
an exercise was held on 1 June in which marked 
aircraft were flown over the invasion fleets. How- 
ever, for security's sake, general marking of planes 
and gliders was not ordered until 3 June (D minus 
2). It proved an arduous task which in many 
groups occupied all available troop carrier person- 
nel far into the night. 30 

Security dictated that the paratroop missions 
arrive under cover of darkness. However, to help 
the troop carriers keep formation and enable the 
airborne troops to assemble after jumping, bright 
moonlight was considered highly desirable. This 
consideration, together with others relating to the 
amphibious assault had led Eisenhower early in 
May to pick 5 June as D-day. It was the first day 
after the 1 June target date that would be pre- 
ceded by a moonlit night. Should a postponement 
prove necessary, the light on the next two nights 
would also be satisfactory. 

To conceal themselves as far as possible, the 
paratroop formations were to reduce their lighting 
to a minimum, particularly over enemy territory. 
It was agreed in April that navigation lights would 
be turned off 10 miles from the British coast, 
downward recognition lights off at HOBOKEN, 
and formation lights dimmed at HOBOKEN until 
barely visible. They would be turned on again at 

the same points on the way back. After the home- 
ward route was changed GALLUP replaced HO- 
BOKEN as the place where recognition and forma- 
tion lights would be turned on again. Flame 
dampeners were relied on to hide the light from 
the exhaust. 40 

Leigh-Mallory had suggested in March that 
smoke might be used to shield the troop carrier 
formations. A test held on 12 April indicated to 
at least one observer that laying sufficient smoke 
to protect large missions would take more effort 
than it was worth. However, at the wish of the 
airborne commanders plans were made to lay 
smoke for the relatively small glider missions to be 
flown at dawn on D-day. On 17 May the Ninth 
Fighter Command agreed to provide six A-20's 
at that time to blanket five miles of coast north of 
Cape Carteret for ten minutes. A strafing of enemy 
positions was to precede the smoke-laying. 41 

The employment of deception and diversionary 
operations in support of OVERLORD had been 
considered by Allied planners as early as 1943, 
but not until 14 April 1944 did 21 Army Group 
present the AEAF commanders with a definite 
plan. A force of Stirlings was to simulate para- 
troop drops in coastal areas north of the Seine at 
about the time of the first British airborne mis- 
sions on the night of D minus 1. WINDOW 
would be used to give the effect of a large force 
of aircraft to enemy radar, and dummy paratroops, 
rifle fire simulators and pintail bombs would be 
dropped. It was later agreed that a few SAS 
troops* would be dropped to add realism. Mean- 
while a dozen Stirlings were to screen the actual 
operations by jamming enemy warning radar all 
along the north coast of Normandy and six others 
would jam fighter control stations. While 38 
Group was given control of the diversions, it had 
no planes to spare, so the necessary units were to 
be obtained from RAF Bomber Command. 42 
| The American airborne commanders showed 
little interest in diversionary operations. However, 
by early May plans had been formulated to fly 
six Stirlings with the first paratroop mission. One 
would accompany the lead ship of each of the 
first six serials as far as HOBOKEN. Instead of 
turning there they would continue straight to the 
cost of Brittany, dropping WINDOW as they went 
to simulate a force of six troop carrier serials. 

*Specialists dropped to perform demolitions or to work with 
Resistance forces. 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 15 

Late in the month a decision was made to screen 
this operation by jamming enemy radar on the 
northwest corner of the Cotentin and in the Chan- 
nel Islands. Accordingly, on 3 June, AEAF re- 
quested the 803d Special Squadron from the 
Eighth Air Force to do the jamming. 43 

Final coordination of all plans for radio counter- 
measures was supervised by an advisory group 
directly under the British Air Ministry. This was 
established by SHAEF on 15 May, too late for 
major changes of plan. However, the simulated 
British airborne missions were later integrated 
with naval feints at Cap d'Antifer and the Boulogne 
area to give the effect of a coordinated airborne 
and amphibious assault. Also, the Stirling feint 
in conjunction with the first American mission was 
altered. It was to turn left a few miles after passing 
HOBOKEN and head for the Coutances area in 
Normandy instead of Brittany. By thus closely 
parallelling the troop carrier route the feint was 
more likely to achieve deception and to distract 
the German garrison of Normandy. Responsibility 
for radio countermeasures during the critical 30 
hours preceding H-hour was delegated by SHAEF 
to the Allied Naval Commander of the Expedi- 
tionary Force. 44 

In early May plans for air support of the Ameri- 
can airborne missions called for preliminary bomb- 
ing, halted at twilight on D minus 1 to avoid 
hampering the troop carriers by fire or heavy 
smoke along the route. The paratroop missions 
that night would be protected by 15 British night 
fighters attacking searchlights and gun positions, 6 
patrolling the coast around the IP, and 8 acting as 
escort. Similar protection was to be given the 
dawn glider missions on D-day. In addition all 
the glider missions were to be given daylight escort 
on a ratio of one fighter group for every 50 gliders. 

By the end of the month changes had been 
made. Night fighters were to provide cover for 
the paratroop missions over the Channel. In the 
interval between the pathfinder drop and the ar- 
rival of the main force in the first paratroop mis- 
sion, bombers would attack points in the Cotentin 
to draw flak and searchlights, and the positions 
thus revealed would be attacked by a dozen night 
fighters. While the paratroop missions were over 
Normandy interceptors equipped with AI radar 
would patrol in relays of six between enemy air- 
fields and the troop carrier route at altitudes of 
5,000 to 8,000 feet, and two or three squadrons 

of intruders would orbit over the enemy airfields. 
All these tasks were to be performed by the RAF- 

On 22 May VIII Fighter Command accepted 
responsibility for support of the first two glider 
missions, but when the route of those missions was 
changed at the end of May it was apparently re- 
leased from that task. About the middle of May 
IX Fighter Command agreed to provide three 
fighter groups as close escort for the twilight glider 
mission on D-day and to support glider and re- 
supply missions on D plus 1 on a similar basis. 

Coordination of planning and control of air 
support for the airborne missions was in the hands 
of a Combined Control Center at Uxbridge to 
which AEAF had delegated control of all fighter 
operations in the initial phase of the invasion. 
Controllers from RAF 1 1 Group would direct the 
British, and IX Fighter Command would provide 
controllers for the Americans. 45 

The planners, vividly remembering how mis- 
sions to Sicily had been thwarted by faulty navi- 
gation, were almost more afraid of that than of 
enemy guns. They saw to it that the troop carrier 
route was marked like an avenue as far as HOBO- 
KEN, and they sought to provide as much guidance 
as possible from there to the zones. 

The British Navy had promised to provide a 
110-foot MT boat and a smaller craft to act as 
markers, one at GALLUP, the other at HOBO- 
KEN. The boats were to keep in position by using 
a radar system called Gee.* Navigational aids in 
England and on the boats were to be set up and 
operated by IX Troop Carrier Command. 

For visual guidance aerial lighthouses known 
as occults were to be put at 30-mile intervals from 
the 52d Wing's assembly point to Portland Bill, 
and the marker ships were to have green holo- 
phane lights. Eureka beacons would be placed at 
all wing assembly points, the head of the Severn 
estuary, ELKO, FLATBUSH, and the marker 
boats. This list includes all points outside enemy 
territory at which there would be a change of 
course. In addition a beacon known as the BUPS, 
would mark the English coast at FLATBUSH and 
the important over-water turn at HOBOKEN. 46 

To guide the missions across Normandy much 
reliance was placed on navigational aids to be set 
up on the zones by teams of pathfinder troops 
flown in half an hour ahead of the main serials. 

*See below, p. 16. 

16 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. 

The pathfinder planes were to locate the zones by 
conventional navigation assisted by Gee (PPF) 
and SCR-717C (PPI) radar. 

Gee, which had been used successfully by RAF 
bombers in 1943, was a British radio system in 
which position was determined by triangulation. 
Navigators observed the sequences of pulses re- 
ceived from three stations and checked their results 
against a map on which the lattice lines marked 
the distribution of pulse patterns. Gee was effec- 
tive to ranges of over 100 miles, ample for the 
Normandy missions. However, very precise in- 
terpolation was needed. Some experts held that 
errors of over 2,000 feet in range and 1,500 feet 
in deflection were to be expected, but troop car- 
rier plans for NEPTUNE assumed a probable 
error of 400 yards. More anxiety was felt about 
Gee's vulnerability to jamming, which would be 
effective at distances up to 15 miles. 

The SCR-717, an American product, was an 
airborne radar sender-receiver, which scanned the 
landscape with its beams. The reflected beams 
produced on the scope a crude outline map in 
which water seemed black, while land and ship- 
ping appeared lighter. It would thus provide a 
recognizable map of the Channel Islands and the 
Normandy coast. 

The first installation of Gee on an American 
troop carrier aircraft was made in mid- January 
1944. By the end of the month the command had 
decided to use it, and by 23 February the Ninth 
Air Force agreed to equip 108 troop carrier planes 
fully and 44 others partially with Gee. It is inter- 
esting that on 25 February General Williams, 
who had no experience with Gee in the Mediter- 
ranean but was full of confidence in Rebecca, 
offered to give up all or most of the Gee equip- 
ment if it were needed for bombing. This conces- 
sion was not called for, and IX Troop Carrier 
Command got its quota of Gee sets. 

On 8 January 1944 the command had requested 
samples of SCR-717, and on 4 February the War 
Department promised to give it 16 sets by the 
middle of March, including 5 which were already 
installed on planes of the 5 2d Wing. More were 
to be sent thereafter as they became available. 
However, because of production difficulties IX 
Troop Carrier Command had only 1 1 planes with 
this equipment on 9 April, and only about 50 sets 
arrived in time for use in the invasion. The first 
experimental installation of Gee in a C-47 having 

SCR-717 was made on 9 April. By fast work all 
or most of the other planes with SCR-717 had 
also been equipped with Gee before D-day. Even 
so, there were only enough such planes for the 
pathfinders and for one or two of the leaders in 
each serial. 47 

The aids to be set up by the pathfinder teams 
on the zones consisted of BUPS and Eureka bea- 
cons, lights, panels, and smoke. 

The BUPS, a supplement to the SCR-717, was 
a responsor beacon designed to react to the beam 
of the SCR-717 as a Eureka beacon did to that of 
Rebecca. The blip produced by its response on 
the scope of a SCR-717 provided an orientation 
point from which a navigator could get his bear- 
ings and to some extent his range. Six BUPS 
beacons arrived in England in April and May. 
Tests made in England indicated that the BUPS 
could be dropped with pathfinder troops and used 
by them. Consequently, besides the two at FLAT- 
BUSH and HOBOKEN, arrangements were made 
to send in two with the pathfinders. One was to 
be set up on the most central zone (DZ C) and 
used throughout the paratroop jumps and the 
dawn glider missions as an orientation point for 
the entire drop and landing area. Another was to 
be used to guide resupply missions for the 8 2d 
Division. 48 

While the BUPS was regarded as an experiment, 
Rebecca-Eureka was heavily relied on to guide the 
approach of night missions. Eureka beacons were 
to be set up on every zone, and all aircraft em- 
ployed by IX Troop Carrier Command were equip- 
ped with Rebecca. In February IX Troop Carrier 
Command had expected to have 650 Rebecca sets. 
A month later it was counting on 750. On 22 
March word came from Washington that 200 more 
sets would be delivered by 1 May and 300 by 1 
June. This pledge was fulfilled. 

Though the supply of Rebecca was ample, its 
employment was restricted by technical considera- 
tions. Experts decided that simultaneous use of 
several hundred sets would cause failure through 
oversaturation. Therefore, its use in the airborne 
missions was to be limited to flight leaders, that 
is to about one pilot in nine in the paratroop for- 
mations. Even these were to turn off their sets 
between HOBOKEN and points 20 miles short of 
their zones and between the zones and points 30 
miles out on the return trip. Stragglers and leaders 
of straggling elements were authorized to use Re- 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 17 

becca but only in emergency, presumably if they 
were lost or hopelessly separated from their serial. 

Radar experts also feared that interference and 
confusion might arise among the Eurekas, since 
six closely grouped beacons were to be used in 
rapid succession. Transmitting and receiving 
channels for the Eurekas were carefully chosen to 
minimize the chance of interference, and their 
signals were coded so that if received by the Re- 
beccas of a serial for which they were not intended, 
they could be distinguished from those of the cor- 
rect beacon. As a further precaution, each Eu- 
reka was to be turned on at a specified time, in 
most cases 15 minutes before planes were due at 
its zone, and turned off 20 minutes after the path- 
finders considered that the drop or release on that 
zone was completed. 

One weakness of the Rebecca-Eureka was a 
tendency of the transmitter pulse on the scope of 
the Rebecca to merge with the blip from the 
Eureka a mile or two before the beacon was 
reached, thus ending the instrument's effectiveness 
and causing premature drops and releases. For 
this reason the troop carriers in NEPTUNE were 
directed to determine their drop or release point 
not by Rebecca but by visual observation of lights, 
panels and smoke, set up to mark the zones. 49 

For night missions lights were to be used. They 
were to be set up on each zone in the shape of a 
T with the stem 30 yards long, parallel to the line 
of flight of approaching serials, and head 20 yards 
across. The pathfinders would place a Eureka 25 
yards beyond the head of the T. Each T was to be 
lit by 5 specially designed holophane lights which 
shot narrow beams of light about 2 degrees above 
the horizon in the direction from which the planes 
would come. They were also visible from above 
through frosted panes in the top of each light. The 
lights on the three drop zones of the 101st Division 
were to be green, red, and amber respectively; 
so were those on the zones of the 82d Division; 
while all of the three glider landing zones were to 
have green lights. Both for security and to pre- 
vent confusion, the lights on a given zone were not 
to be turned on until six minutes before planes 
were due there and were to be turned off as soon 
as the drop or release on that zone was considered 
complete. The scheduling of the serials was such 
that there seemed hardly a chance that two T's of 
like color would be on at the same time for the 
paratroop missions. There was, however, a strong 

likelihood that green lights for different glider 
missions would be on simultaneously, since at dawn 
and dusk on D-day missions for both airborne 
divisions were to arrive in quick succession. This 
opportunity for error may have been discounted 
because it seemed settled that those missions would 
have some sunlight to assist them. As an additional 
means of identification, the lights on each drop or 
landing zone were to flash in code the letter identi- 
fying that zone. 

For daylight missions, zones were to be marked 
by fluorescent panels 3 feet by 15 feet in size, 
arranged to form T's and identifying letters, and 
by colored smoke. Each zone would have its own 
color combination of panels and smoke. 

Emergency resupply missions were to be called 
for by placing one long and one short panel in 
line pointing toward the desired zone. Such mis- 
sions could also be requested by radio by an air 
support party through Ninth Air Force Head- 
quarters at Uxbridge. No provision was made for 
direct radio contact between the airborne troops in 
Normandy and the planes engaged in follow-up 
missions. Moreover, to provide maximum security 
for the airborne and amphibious landings, com- 
plete radio silence was imposed from the start of 
the invasion until H-hour, which was ultimately 
set at 0630 on D-day. 50 

Thus stood the plans at the end of May, a care- 
fully constructed and comprehensive structure. 
Flaws there might be, but until revealed by combat 
experience they were scarcely visible. 

The Buildup 

The preparations of IX Troop Carrier Com- 
mand for OVERLORD were favorably affected 
by a strong transfusion of experienced officers into 
its headquarters and adversely affected by an influx 
of new and green personnel into its flying units. 

The command expanded its staff from about 
100 officers in January to over 150 by the middle 
of March. Most of the newcomers had served in 
the Mediterranean either with the 52d Troop 
Carrier Wing or on the staff of the XII Troop 
Carrier Command, which had been dissolved on 

20 February, the cream of its officers being sent 
to England. About half of them went into the A-3 
Section, which grew from 17 to 33 officers, and 
into Communications, which expanded from 13 to 

21 officers. 51 Man for man, the experience of the 

18 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. 

contingent from the MTO in handling airborne 
missions was unparalleled in the AAF or, indeed, 
in any other air force with the possible exception 
of the German Luftwaffe. Naturally, the already 
strpng influence of Mediterranean doctrine and 
methods on IX Troop Carrier Command became 
increasingly dominant.* 

Most important of the personnel changes was 
the assumption of command on 25 February by 
General Williams, former chief of XII Troop Car- 
rier Command, in place of General Giles. Lt. Col. 
James C. Pruitt, who had been Williams' Signal 
Officer in the MTO, had arrived ahead of him and 
had been installed as Communications Officer 
early in February. Within a week after taking 
command General Williams named a new A-l, 
Lt. Col. Owen G. Birtwistle, formerly with the 52d 
Wing, and a new Deputy Chief of Staff, Col. Peter 
S. Rask, who had held a corresponding post in XII 
Troop Carrier Command. 

Col. Ralph E. Fisher, who joined the command 
in April and became A-3, was a comparative out- 
sider, though favorably known to Williams. With 
Fisher in the A-3 Section were two veterans from 
the MTO, Col. Glynne M. Jones, former A-3 of 
XII Troop Carrier Command, and Lt. Col. John 
W. Oberdorf, who had also held that position for 
a time. Both played an active and influential role 
in planning the coming airborne operations. In 
close contact with them was Col. Ralph B. Bagby, 
former Chief of Staff of XII Troop Carrier Com- 
mand. He had been assigned to Headquarters 
AEAF, put in their Operations Section, and given 
charge of their troop carrier planning. 

Three major holdovers provided IX Troop Car- 
rier Command with an element of continuity and 
a valuable knowledge of the administrative intrica- 
cies of the ETO. The Chief of Staff, Col. James 
E. Duke, Jr., had held his post since December 
1943. The A-2, Lt. Col. Paul S. Zuckerman, and 
the A-4, Col. Robert M. Graham, had held theirs 
since October 1943 when the command was in its 
infancy. 52 

When Williams took command the field strength 
of IX Troop Carrier Command was growing fast. 
What had been little more than an advance party 
in 1943 was being built up to a point where it 
could undertake large-scale training in March 

*However, policy was shaped by experts from all possible 
sources. For example, Lt. Col. M. C. Murphy, formerly direc- 
tor of the Advanced Tactical Glider School, was an active and 
helpful adviser in glider matters. 

1944. In the first two months of the year the 
436th, 437th, and 438th Troop Carrier Groups, 
part of ihe 439th, and Headquarters, 53d Troop 
Carrier Wing had come from the United States. 
In addition most of the air echelon of the 61st, 
313th, 314th, and 316th Groups and Head- 
quarters, 52d Wing, which commanded them, had 
flown up from the Mediterranean. By the end of 
March the rest of the 439th, the 440th, 441st and 
442d Groups had arrived from the United States, 
and all of the 5 2d Wing and its four groups had 
come from the MTO, as had 47 planes and crews 
for the 315th Group. The command had attained 
its full complement of IW2 groups and 3 wing 

However, at that time it had on hand only about 
760 crews and 845 aircraft. Its strength was built 
up to 1,076 qualified crews and 1,062 operational 
aircraft by the end of April, and raised to 1,116 
qualified crews, and 1,207 operational aircraft at 
the end of May by flying in additional crews and 
planes from the United States. This action pro- 
vided a sufficient force and reserve for all airborne 
missions to be undertaken by IX Troop Carrier 
Command in NEPTUNE. However, it should be 
remembered that of 924 crews which IX Troop 
Carrier Command was committed to send on mis- 
sions before H-hour on D-day about 20 percent 
would have to be inexperienced filler personnel 
who had been overseas less than two months. 53 

The groups from the United States brought with 
them their T/O complement of 104 glider pilots 
apiece, so, although the 52d Wing was somewhat 
short of glider personnel when it arrived in the 
United Kingdom, IX Troop Carrier Command had 
pilots and co-pilots for 618 gliders by 31 March, 
not counting the glider pilots of the 442d Group, 
then en route from the United States. As it turned 
out, this was enough. However, had the large glider 
operations which First Army desired been ap- 
proved and others tentatively arranged with the 
British been carried out, the supply of glider pilots 
would certainly have run low. In view of such a 
situation IX Troop Carrier Command had re- 
quested late in January that an additional 700 
glider pilots be sent from the United States as 
replacements. Drastic steps were taken to step up 
the rate of advanced glider training and some 
pilots were diverted from other theaters with the 
result that 380 pilots reached the United Kingdom 
in late March and early April and 215 more 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 19 

arrived in May, giving IX Troop Carrier 
Command enough for 951 gliders on the eve of 

One potentially grave personnel shortage existed 
in IX Troop Carrier Command. With planes and 
combat crews more than a third overstrength, 
ground personnel had been left at T/O level. 
However, because the ground crews were mostly 
fresh and enthusiastic and materiel mostly new 
and in good condition, this situation, although it 
caused some anxiety, did not appreciably impede 
operations in OVERLORD. 53 

Of the planes themselves over three-quarters 
were less than a year old as of 1 June, and all 
were in fine condition. All old engines had been 
replaced, thus eliminating a prime cause of abor- 
tive sorties. During the winter, supply shortages 
had been frequent, but by late May, time, effort, 
and high priorities had given the troop carriers all 
the items they needed for their planes with one 
exception, self-sealing fuel tanks. 

The command had asked in February for per- 
sonnel armor and self-sealing tanks. Thanks in 
part to lend-lease assistance from the British they 
got armored seat-pads for their pilots and co- 
pilots, and flak helmets, armored vests and aprons 
for all crew members. Seat-pads and armored 
clothing were also procured for the pilots and co- 
pilots of the gliders. The request for self -sealing 
tanks was turned down; General Arnold, himself, 
ruled in February that they could not be spared 
for troop carrier use. Information in April that 
about 75 such tanks might be available roused IX 
Troop Carrier Command to new efforts to get at 
least enough to equip its pathfinders, but these 
attempts, too, were in vain. 50 

The troop carriers had plenty of gliders on hand 
before the end of April 1944, largely because pro- 
vision for them had been made well in advance. 
Before the end of July 1943 General Arnold, who 
then believed that gliders would be a decisive 
factor in the assault, had ordered the shipment of 
1,441 Waco gliders to the United Kingdom. About 
the same time the British, who expected to have 
some 1,600 Horsa gliders on hand by the spring 
of 1944, had pledged a minimum of 300 of them 
to the AAF. These quotas were later made even 
larger. By February 1944, 2,100 Waco gliders 
had been shipped to England. 

On 3 1 May, after considerable attrition in train- 
ing IX Troop Carrier Command had 1,118 opera- 

tional Waco gliders and 301 operational Horsas. 67 
However, before so many gliders had been made 
available delays in the assembly of the Wacos 
had threatened to upset the troop carrier training 
program. Except for the first shipment of Waco 
gliders, which had arrived unexpectedly in the 
United Kingdom in May 1943, Wacos were stored 
at Crookham Common about 40 miles southwest 
of London. Attempts to use the nearby base of 
Aldermaston for assembly proved unsatisfactory 
because of transportation difficulties, so Crookham 
came to be the center for assembly as well as 
storage of Waco gliders. While spacious and 
fairly well located, Crookham Common lacked 
facilities for efficient glider assembly and was so 
windswept that completed gliders were in constant 
danger of being wrecked. 

During the summer of 1943 Eighth Air Force 
delegated the care and assembly of incoming glid- 
ers to untrained British civilian workers with the 
result that of the first 62 gliders they attempted to 
put together 51 were unflyable. In September the 
26th Mobile Reclamation and Repair Squadron 
was given the assembly job. In October the IX 
Air Force Service Command took over the base 
and unit. Inexperienced, ill-equipped, and under- 
manned, the squadron managed to assembly about 
200 gliders out of a quota of 600 before the end of 
1943. It failed to speed up appreciably during the 
next three months and was set back by storms, 
which damaged over 100 completed gliders. On 
26 March 1944 IX Troop Carrier Command, 
which even then had less than 300 usable Wacos, 
appealed to IX Air Force Service Command to 
raise glider output to 20 a day. The response was 
a promise to produce 30 a day. Many additional 
personnel, including an experienced engineer offi- 
cer who was to reorganize assembly methods, were 
sent to Crookham Common. For its part the troop 
carrier command arranged to have the gliders 
flown away promptly after completion to prevent 
them from accumulating. Working a seven-day 
week, the men at Crookham assembled 910 
Wacos in April, and the danger of a glider short- 
age vanished. 58 

During late April attention shifted to glider 
modification, including the installation of para- 
chute arrestors, landing lights, glider-plane inter- 
communication sets, and especially the Griswold 
nose, a framework designed to protect the Waco 
and its contents in a crash-landing. On 29 April 

20 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. 

IX Troop Carrier Command requested that the 
Griswold nose be installed in all of 500 Wacos 
still awaiting assembly at Crookham. Later it 
agreed to have production reduced to 10 gliders a 
day in order to get that modification done. In 
addition it sent out service teams to put the Gris- 
wold reinforcement on gliders at its own bases. 
By 27 May 288 Griswold noses had been installed. 
Two or three days later work at Crookham was 
halted and the mechanics there were sent to the 
troop carrier bases to help the overburdened glider 
mechanics in their final preparations.™ 

Although British lashings for Horsa cargoes ar- 
rived late, the only important Horsa equipment not 
received in time for the invasion was ^e-inch 
nylon tow ropes, of which 960 had been ordered 
from the United States on 10 February. Three 
months later none had arrived, and the troop car- 
riers urgently requested that 100 sets be sent by 
air. Only a few incomplete sets arrived, and 1 ^e" 
inch rope had to be used. Fortunately, it proved 
to be a satisfactory substitute.* 

Late in April, inspections revealed decay around 

•Unlike the Waco, which was towed by a single rope hitched 
to the nose, the Horsa had a Y-shaped tow rope with 350-foot 
stem and 75-foot arms hitched to either wing 

Figure I. Paratrooper Boarding a C-47. 

Figure 2. Paratroop Officer Demonstrates Jump Position. 

the stern posts of many Horsas, and a crew of 100 
civilians was hastily set to repairing them. Also 
during the late spring the Horsas were being modi- 
fied so that their tails could be removed if the 
doors were jammed or blocked. By the end of 
May mechanics of IX Air Force Service Command 
had made this change on 257 of the Horsas in 
American possession."" 

Deployment and Training 

On 6 February SHAEF had directed IX Troop 
Carrier Command to prepare in conjunction with 
the airborne commanders an intensive training 
program to culminate early in May in exercises 
with an airborne division. The goal of the train- 
ing was to enable the troop carriers to fly night 
paratroop missions to within a mile of an objec- 
tive and to fly glider missions by twilight or moon- 
light to a given landing zone in formation and 
within a minute of schedule. By 26 February such 
a program had been worked out. It called for 
intensive joint training with airborne troops to 
begin on 15 March.* Later the plan was revised 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 21 

to meet General Williams' feeling that training 
should be made more realistic and that a larger 
proportion of the program should be devoted to 
exercises with American airborne units, since all 
scheduled missions were to be with them. 01 

Until 1944 it had been assumed that IX Troop 
Carrier Command would fly its missions from 
fields in the northeast of England. Its headquarters 
had been established at Grantham in Lincolnshire, 
and the bases it was to use in the invasion were 
grouped around that town. There its units could 
practice in relative security from enemy air raids 
and would not interfere with the bomber and 
fighter units so tightly packed in the southeast of 
the island. 

However, preliminary studies had shown that 
glider missions would stand a much better chance 
if based near the south coast, because they would 
be less exposed to bad weather and nearer to their 
objectives. These points applied particularly to 
Horsa missions, since towing them taxed a C-47 
to the limit. Accordingly arrangements were made 
in January to move a wing containing five groups 
to fields in southern England. Ramsbury and Wel- 
ford Park were quickly obtained, and by 17 Febru- 
ary authority had been given to take over the 
neighboring fields of Greenham Common, Mem- 
bury, and Aldermaston. All five were excellent 
bases. They were located about 50 miles from the 
south coast and between 50 and 70 miles west of 
London. The 53d Troop Carrier Wing was picked 
to occupy them. 

Up to the end of February 1944 IX Troop Car- 
rier Command had no intention of seeking more 

Figure 3. Cockpit of a Waco Glider. 

Figure 4. Jeep Emerging from Nose of Waco Glider. 

than five southern fields. The decision to lift two 
American divisions and the requests of those divi- 
sions for glider missions produced a change. On 
3 March General Williams announced at a meeting 
of Ninth Air Force commanders that if his com- 
mand was to fly 400 gliders in the assault phase of 
OVERLORD, it would need five additional fields 
in southern England from which to launch them. 
Within a week the RAF had agreed to provide five 
fields in the southwest near Exeter, and on 16 
March a meeting at AEAF Headquarters selected 
Exeter, Upottery, Merryfield, and Weston Zoy- 
land for use by the American troop carriers as 
tenants of the RAF. The 50th Wing was desig- 
nated to occupy them. No suitable fifth field was 
found, although several were proposed then and 
later. 1 ' 2 

Throughout the training period, the 5 2d and 
53d Wings were closely paired with the divisions 
they were to carry in NEPTUNE.* When the 53d 
moved to its southern bases it found its partner, 
the 101st Division already established close-by. 
Divisional headquarters was at Greenham Lodge, 
only a mile or so from wing headquarters at Green- 
ham Common. The divisional commander, Maj. 
Gen. William C. Lee, one of the pioneers of air- 
borne warfare, was incapacitated by illness in 
March. His place was taken by Brig. Gen. Max- 
well D. Taylor, Divisional Artillery Commander 
of the 82d Division, an officer who had won much 
experience and a fine reputation in the Mediter- 
ranean. In mid-February the 82d Division had 

^The 50th Wing was able to work with the 82d Division un- 
til it moved south in April, but its southern fields had been ac- 
quired too late to make good arrangements for training there 
with the airborne. 

22 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. 

moved from Northern Ireland to the Leicester 
area within easy commuting distance of the bases 
into which its partner, the 52d Wing, was then 
moving. Divisional headquarters was set up at 
Braunstone Park in Leicestershire. The 82d's 
commander was Maj. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway, 
who had directed the 8 2d throughout its campaigns 
in the Mediterranean. 

Both divisions were remodeled to provide the 
powerful paratroop punch expected of them in 
Normandy. The 101st had come overseas with 
one parachute regiment, the 502d. Now it had 
the 506th PIR assigned and the 501st PIR at- 
tached to it; it lost one of its two glider regiments, 
retaining the 327th. 

The 8 2d Division had left one of its two para- 
chute regiments in Italy. This unit, the 504th PIR, 
which had suffered severely at Anzio, did not 
reach the United Kingdom until May and was not 
ready for use in the invasion. However, as com- 
pensation, the 507th and 508th PIR's were at- 
tached to the division in January to supplement 
its veterans, the 505th PIR and the 325th Glider 
Infantry. 63 Thus the airborne divisions, as used in 
Normandy, were in effect quadrangular with three 
parachute and one glider regiment apiece. 

The joint training program could not be uni- 
form. It had to be adjusted to the missions and 
proficiencies of the various troop carrier units as 
well as to the training policies and geographic 
accessibility of the airborne troops. As a result 
each wing and to some extent each group of troop 
carriers received different training. 

The 53d Wing had been selected to specialize 
in glider operations but would have to be ready for 
possible paratroop commitments. To aid its prepa- 
ration for this dual role, it was given the only four 
groups in the command which were intact and fully 
operational at the end of February. Of these, the 
434th and 435th Groups had already flown many 
paratroop and glider exercises in the United King- 
dom. The 436th and 437th were well qualified for 
paratroop work but had had only rudimentary 
training with gliders. By 3 March these four groups 
had been assigned to the wing and moved to their 
tactical bases, Aldermaston, Welford Park, Mem- 
bury, and Ramsbury. The 438th Group, which 
joined the Wing at Greenham Common on 16 
March, was not operational until April. 04 

During early March the 53d Wing put its fliers 

through a series of paratroop exercises with simu- 
lated drops, and on the night of 12 March executed 
a successful drop of a parachute regiment. The 
wing made a spectacularly good drop on 23 March 
in the presence of Eisenhower, Brereton, and 
Churchill and a still better one on the night of 12 
April. These performances won the confidence of 
IX Troop Carrier Command in spite of the fact 
that in a night exercise on 4 April heavy clouds 
with bases at 1,000 feet had caused three out of 
four serials of the 53d to abort and the other to 
disperse and to drop inaccurately. The wing ended 
its work with paratroops on 18 April, because its 
partner, the 101st Division, decided its troops had 
jumped enough. 

All groups of the 53d Wing did some training 
with gliders during March, and the 434th and 
437th Groups, which were picked to specialize in 
glider operations, reached the point where they 
could fly glider formations at night. After some 
experimentation the 437th concluded that the most 
satisfactory formation was the pair of pairs in 
echelon to the right. Glider training in the 53d 
Wing rose to such intensity during April that the 
wing logged 6,965 hours of glider towing that 
month. The effects of this work were shown in an 
exercise on 21 April when pilots, most of whom 
had towed a Horsa for the first time less than 
seven weeks before, released 241 out of 245 
Horsas at their proper landing zones after a long 
flight. For the first three weeks of May the wing 
continued glider training with increasing emphasis 
on night formations and on landings at dawn in 
areas less than 400 yards in length. The final ver- 
dict of IX Troop Carrier Command was that it 
was fully qualified for its coming role. 65 

Between 11 February and 5 March almost all 
the air echelon of the 52d Wing, including the fly- 
ing personnel of the 61st, 313th, 314th, and 316th 
Groups flew from Sicily to England via Marrakech 
and Gibraltar with a loss of only one out of 221 
planes. The rear echelon arrived by boat on 18 
March. The remnant of the 315th Group in 
England was assigned to the 52d Wing on 17 
February. In March the 315th's two squadrons in 
North Africa returned to the ETO and the group 
also received 26 aircraft with experienced crews 
transferred from troop carrier units in the Mediter- 
ranean to bring it up to strength. These crews later 
were organized into two new squadrons. Attached 
to the 5 2d Wing in May for operations and train- 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 23 

ing was the 442d Group, which had arrived from 
the United States between 26 and 29 March and 
had been assigned to the 5utn wing. 

During the training phase the groups of the 52d 
Wing were concentrated within a 15-mile radius of 
Grantham, except for the 315th, which was at 
Spanhoe 22 miles away. Wing headquarters and 
the 316th Group were at Cottesmore, the 61st at 
Barkston Heath, the 313th at Folkingham, the 
314th at Saltby and the 442d at Fulbeck. All bases 
were connected by good English roads and when 
completed had all necessary facilities including 
hard-surface runways in the 6,000-foot class. The 
notoriously bad spring weather of northern Eng-*" 
land often interfered with flying. However, enough 
time had been provided so that the training of all 
but the 315th and 442d Groups was completed 
with time to spare. 

The quality of the 315th and 442d Groups was 
very different from that of the other four. The 
others had flown so much that there was a danger 
they would go stale. Their pilots had an average 
flying time of well over 1,500 hours when training 
began. Most of them had been overseas for more 
than ten months and had flown paratroop missions. 
The fliers of the 315th Group had equally impres- 
sive amounts of overseas and flying time, but its 
two original squadrons had been employed for 
ten months on routine transport work and never 
had had much training for airborne operations. 
Also, the group, having been built up from various 
sources, needed time to develop teamwork. The 
442d was a very green unit. Activated in Septem- 
ber 1943, it had had only one or two C-47's per 
squadron until December. Its training in the 
United States, hampered by winter weather, and 
curtailed to meet the schedule for OVERLORD, 
had included almost no night formation flying or 
dropping of paratroops. fi(l 

The 5 2d Wing had been selected to fly the para- 
troops of the 82d Division into Normandy. Since 
its bases were too far north to be suitable for glider 
missions, the wing concentrated on paratroop 
work. Nevertheless, it spent 4,207 hours in April 
and May towing gliders and demonstrated in a 
daylight glider exercise on 29 May that it could 
fly glider missions if necessary. 

The 61st and 316th Groups were able to make 
actual drops of paratroop battalions on 18 March. 
The 313th and 314th Groups, hampered by con- 
struction at their fields, flew no exercises until 

April. By the end of that month all four were 
considered ready, although the 313th and 314th 
had done badly in three night drops. 

Meanwhile the 315th and 442d had not begun 
training programs until 3 April, and had spent that 
month mostly in formation flying. They flew no 
exercises and dropped no troops until May. By 
then the American airborne divisions had almost 
wound up their jumping program and were not 
eager to risk accidents by further parachuting. 
Fortunately, the 8 2d Division had some men who 
had not completed their quota of jumps, and addi- 
tional exercises were scheduled for the nights of 
the 5th and 7th of May. In the former both groups 
had loose formations and the 315th drifted off 
course. In the latter, flown in cloudy weather by 
the 315th, assembly, formation and drop were all 

EAGLE, the command rehearsal on 1 1-12 May, 
had been intended as the final exercise of the 
training period, but IX Troop Carrier Command 
recognized that the 3 15th and 442d Groups needed- 
more work and felt that the 314th" had not yet 
proved itself in night operations. The performance 
of the three groups in EAGLE bore out this 
opinion. Accordingly the 314th was given another 
night paratroop exercise on 14/15 May, and the 
training periods of the 315th and 442d were ex- 
tended to 26 May at which date they, too, made 
night paratroop drops on a token basis. The three 
exercises were so completely successful as to indi- 
cate that even the least experienced groups would 
be ready for NEPTUNE. 67 

Last of the troop carrier wings to enter intensive 
training was the 50th. During the winter it had 
been at Bottesford m command of the groups 
subsequently given to the 53d Wing. In their place 
it received the 439th Group on 25 February and 
the 440th and 441st Groups on 21 March.* None 
of these groups had been in existence for more 
than nine months. All had arrived from the 
United States within a few days of their assign- 
ment to the wing. The 439th was stationed at 
Balderton, the 440th at Bottesford, the 441st at 
Langar. The three fields were in the northern 
group and were all within about five miles of IX 
Troop Carrier Command headquarters at Grant- 
ham. Some formation flying was done in daytime 
during March, despite wintry weather, but the 

*The 442d Group was also assigned to the 50th Wing but 
its training has been discussed in connection with the 52d Wing. 

24 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. 

wing's training program did not really get under 
way until the beginning of April. At that time an 
inspector observed that all groups in the 50th 
lacked practice in night formation flying and that 
most of the navigators were inexperienced and 
ignorant of all radar aids, even Rebecca. 68 

During April each of the groups had a different 
program. The 439th specialized in glider towing 
and became skillful enough to fly night formations 
with gliders. It carried out four glider exercises 
by daylight with good results. In its only paratroop 
exercise everything went wrong, and the drop was 
far from the DZ. The 440th flew one successful 
daytime glider exercise, and executed four para- 
troop drops, the last three of which were very 
good. The 441st Group, which had dropped para- 
troops only twice in its short life, carried none in 
April" It concentrated on day formation flying 
until the tenth and on night formations thereafter 
but did make a very accurate resupply drop on 
the afternoon of the 21st. 

During the last week of April the 50th moved to 
southwest England. Wing headquarters and the 
440th Group went to Exeter, the 439th to Upot- 
tery about 15 miles northeast of Exeter, and the 
441st to Merryfield some ten miles northeast of 
Upottery. All were fine large bases with long hard- 
surface runways. Although some construction was 
still going on at all three fields, they were ready 
for use. 

During early May the 50th Wing carried on 
intensive training, including two simulated wing 
paratroop drops at night. No troops were actually 
dropped, because the 101st Division had finished 
its jump training except for EAGLE and was 
averse to doing more. Although the wing did well 
in EAGLE, it was considered to be in need of 
further practice. Since there were no paratroops 
to drop, it flew four more night exercises with 
simulated drops between 18 and 29 May. These 
were carefully designed to resemble actual opera- 
tions, and lights were flashed to indicate when the 
jump signal would have been given. The results 
were good. Besides these exercises a heavy sched- 
ule of other flying training was continued until the 
29th of May. By then the 50th Wing, too, was 
rated as ready for action.' 10 

Besides the three wings, another organization, 
the Command Pathfinder School, was engaged in 
an even more exacting training program. The 
development of a separate pathfinder organization 

seems to have been a gradual process. The success 
of RAF bombers led by Gee-equipped pathfinders 
inspired the command to begin training navigators 
at Bottesford in the use of Gee about the end of 
January. The school had one radar officer, a 
second lieutenant, and four instructors with one 
Gee ground trainer, three Gee ground sets, and 
two Gee-equipped aircraft. Early in February the 
arrival of five planes from the MTO equipped with 
SCR-717C made it possible to begin training with 
that instrument. By 12 February IX Troop Car- 
rier Command had decided to include both Gee 
and SCR-717 training in one Command Path- 
finder School. 

To secure more room and better facilities the 
school was moved to Cottesmore. On 26 February 
Lt. Col. Joel L. Crouch, who had planned and 
led pathfinder operations in Italy, was named as 
Commandant (one of General Williams' first ap- 
pointments in IX Troop Carrier Command), and 
on the 28th the school officially opened. Cottes- 
more, which also housed the 316th Group and 
5 2d Wing headquarters, proved to be too con- 
gested, so on 22 March the pathfinders were 
moved to North Witham, about ten miles south of 
Grantham. 70 

Early plans for large-scale radar training had to 
be whittled down for lack of equipment and in- 
structors. Aircraft with SCR-717 already installed 
trickled in one by one from the United States. Men 
trained to use or repair the SCR-717 were scarce 
and tools with which to repair it were scarcer.* 
Although Gee was more plentiful, and the RAF 
had provided instructors and mechanics to help 
the Americans get started, test equipment and 
parts for it were hard to get. Consequently the 
first class had to be limited to 24 crews, 3 from 
each of the 8 troop carrier groups then in England. 
A few more were included after the course started. 
These were to be trained intensively for 60 days. 
If time and facilities permitted, another class would 
be trained later in the spring. Whole crews were 
enrolled on the grounds that much better results 
could be attained by a team working together 
than by a trained navigator whose comrades 
were ignorant and perhaps skeptical of his new 

*The first shipment of materiel for installation of SCR-717 
did not arrive in England until 18 May, and 18 trained radar 
officers requested by IX Troop Carrier Command in March 
did not arrive until 28 May. (Journal, IX TCC Comm Off, 18, 
28 May 44 in 546.901 A; Rpt, IX TCC Comm Off, 20 May 44, 
in 546.116.) 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 25 

By the end of March the students had com- 
pleted ground training and had an average of 60 
hours flight instruction and practice with the new 
instruments. Most of them were deemed skillful 
enough to graduate from basic instruction and to 
concentrate on perfecting their technique in prac- 
tice missions. Therefore on 6 April, 24 more 
crews were called in for training. Since this ex- 
pansion required additional equipment, IX Troop 
Carrier Command decided to allot the pathfinders 
52 aircraft, including the 1 1 equipped with SCR- 
717 which were then on hand and all of the same 
type subsequently received by the command. The 
rest of the 52 planes were to be equipped with 
Gee and, after the successful installation of a Gee 
set in a plane with SCR-717, all aircraft so equip- 
ped were also provided with Gee. 

As early as 18 March pathfinder planes had 
participated in exercises and dropped paratroops 
with Eureka beacons and visual aids. However, 
in several early exercises the Rebeccas in the troop 
carrier aircraft were ineffective because they were 
badly tuned or even set for the wrong channel. The 
pathfinder school requested and was given the 
responsibility for designating channels and for the 
tuning of Rebecca-Eureka equipment. With pre- 
cise tuning this radar improved remarkably there- 
after in reliability and in range. Some poor 
performances had occurred because the paratroop 
pathfinder teams dropped to operate the Eurekas 
had only limited knowledge of their instruments 
and were ignorant of troop carrier plans and pro- 
cedure. Therefore 300 pathfinder personnel from 
the American airborne divisions were sent to 
North Witham to study and work with the troop 
carrier pathfinders. This also produced dividends 
in greater efficiency and better teamwork. 

By 10 May the second batch of crews had com- 
pleted their basic training, and 14 fully trained 
crews were returned to the groups to lead serials 
in EAGLE. Lack of coordination in EAGLE 
between those 14 crews and the serials they were 
supposed to lead resulted in a decision to keep 
at North Witham only 24 crews for further training 
and return the rest to the groups to get practice as 
leaders. The aircraft of the 28 crews which were 
returned had to fly to North Witham every three 
days for servicing and current radar data, but the 
move was probably a wise one. Reintegrated into 
their groups, and usually with group commanders 

or executive officers as pilots, most of these ex- 
pathfinders did well in NEPTUNE. 

By D-day, all navigators at the pathfinder school 
had operated Gee for at least 25 hours and were 
considered qualified operators. Most had had from 
15 to 45 hours training with the SCR-717C and 
could easily identify the image of a coastline on its 
scope. However, using the SCR-717 to orient 
oneself over inland areas was much more difficult 
and few if any were prepared to do this with 
assurance. 71 

The command exercise, -EAGLE, deserves at- 
tention both as the nearest thing to a true rehearsal 
held for any American airborne operation in 
World War II, and as a test to determine whether 
IX Troop Carrier Command could carry out its 
controversial and perilous role in NEPTUNE. 
EAGLE was originally an exercise of the 50th and 
53d Wings with the 101st Division, but late in 
April after the 82d Division paratroop mission was 
moved up to follow immediately after that of the 
101st, the exercise was revised to include the 5 2d 
Wing and the 8 2d Division and to correspond as 
closely as possible to the whole sequence of pre-H- 
hour airborne missions as then planned. It was also 
postponed from the 7th to the 11th and 12th of 
May so that all units would be ready to participate. 

The main route to be flown ran from March, the 
52d Wing assembly point, westward for 159 miles 
to Cefn Llechid in Wales, then south for 50 miles 
to a marker boat in the Bristol Channel, and east 
for 55 miles to Devizes, which was the IP. Eu- 
rekas and beacon lights were spaced at intervals 
along the way, including all assembly points and 
turns. In addition BUPS beacons were provided 
on the marker boat and at Devizes. Drop zones 
were to be marked by pathfinder troops essentially 
as they would be in the invasion. Simulated glider 
landing zones in the tactical area were to be 
marked by T's, but after some debate, it had been 
settled that the gliders would simply be towed over 
these zones and land in comparable areas marked 
out on airfields, thus avoiding possible crashes and 
recovery problems. 

The rehearsal began on the night of 11 May 
with the take-off of seven pathfinder serials from 
North Witham half an hour ahead of the main 
serials. Four pathfinder serials got excellent re- 
sults; two did well; one lost its way in a haze, 
which in places limited the visibility to three miles. 
When it did reach its zone it was so late that the 

26 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. 

troops it carried were unable to get their equip- 
ment into action in time to direct the 315th Group, 
which was the first scheduled to drop there. 

After the pathfinders came 19 paratroop serials 
spaced at 6-minute intervals. The parachute eche- 
lon of the 101st Division was flown by 432 aircraft 
in 10 serials, half from the 53d Group and half 
from the 50th. The first jump was to take place at 
0033. The serials of the 53d Wing were uniformly 
successful. Those of the 50th also did creditably, 
except that one flight from the 440th Group fell 
out of formation, missed its drop zone in the haze 
and returned without making a drop. 

The paratroops of the 82d Division were car- 
ried by 369 planes of the 52d Wing in nine serials. 
Unlike the 101st Division which, having prepared 
the operation long in advance, sent over 6,000 
jumpers, the 82d was able to provide only token 
loads of two jumpers per plane. One serial, that 
of the 442d Group, broke up on the way. Only 16 
of its 45 aircraft got to the vicinity of the drop 
zone and dropped troops. The rest, lost in the 
haze, returned to base on orders from group head- 
quarters and tried again at dawn. The Eurekas 
and lights on the zone were off at the time and 
the 442d, baffled, dropped its paratroops 10 miles 
away. The other serials reached the drop area 
approximately on course and on schedule, and six 
did well. However, the aids on the zones of the 
314th and 315th Groups were not on when they 
arrived. Most of the 314th made a second pass, 
saw the T, which by then had been lighted, and 
dropped troops on it. However, nine pilots had 
given up and gone home, and another nine made 
drops by guesswork far from the zone. The 315th 
Group, although it finally received some signals, 
was too disoriented to make use of them and re- 
turned without making any drop. 

Only two glider serials were flown in EAGLE. 
They were spaced 10 minutes apart from head to 
head and consisted of 52 planes each from the 
434th and 437th Groups, towing a mixture of 
Wacos and Horsas. The first glider was to be re- 
leased at 0529, ten minutes before civil twilight.* 
Seven pilots of the 434th lost their way in the 
dark, but the 437th released all but one of its 
gliders at the proper point. The landings were 
considered good. 

*Civil twilight begins in the morning when there is enough 
sunlight to see by. The sun is then about 6 degrees below the 

The effect of EAGLE was to induce a mood of 
optimism as far as troop carrier capabilities were 
concerned. Williams, who had already declared 
that, barring unexpectedly heavy flak or failure by 
the pathfinders, 90-100 percent of the paratroops 
in IX Troop Carrier Command's Normandy mis- 
sions would land in the correct area, was confirmed 
in his opinion. Even Leigh-Mallory stated that he 
was highly impressed. 7 - 

Since in general the experienced groups had 
done very well, and the only serious failures were 
by the inexperienced 315th and 442d Groups, the 
lesson seemed to be that further training of the. 
weak sisters was the only thing needed to insure 
good performance, at least as far as the paratroop 
operations were concerned. (The attitude toward 
the initial glider missions remained a mixture of 
opposition and fatalistic resignation.) This optim- 
ism was related to neglect of a major variable in 
the situation, namely the weather. Time and time 
again in big and little exercises during the past 
two months, and in several previous missions, 
wind and low visibility, particularly at night, had 
scattered troop carrier formations, twisted them 
off course or spoiled their drops. Yet the halcyon 
weather in EAGLE seems to have pushed all this 
into the background. The field orders for EAGLE 
had contained full and specific precautions against 
bad weather. Those for NEPTUNE were to be 
notably lacking in such precautions. Even the 
requirements of security and the need to send in 
the NEPTUNE missions under almost any condi- 
tions cannot fully explain this neglect. 

Final Preparations 

Final troop carrier preparations began with the 
completion by IX Troop Carrier Command of 
Field Order 1, NEPTUNE-BIGOT, at 1500 on 31 
May. Although as yet few knew it, D-day had 
been set for 5 June, and the first planes were to be 
on their way over the Channel before midnight on 
the 4th. The 5 2d Wing at Cottesmore was so close 
it could pick up the orders almost immediately and 
have its own order out next day. Copies for the 
50th and 53d Wings were flown to them, those for 
the 53d arriving at Greenham Common about 
2300 on the 31st. Working continuously the staff 
of the 53d Wing issued the first part of its order at 
0800 on 1 June. The 50th Wing issued its field 
order at 0800 on 2 June. By 1400 that afternoon 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 27 

the 53d had the last annexes to its order ready for 
distribution. Group field orders, being hardly more 
than extracted copies of the command and wing 
orders, came out almost immediately after the 
wing orders. Some groups relied on wing orders 
and issued none of their own. 

The troop carrier command had obtained ample 
supplies of maps from First Army and distributed 
them to the wings. The maps of Normandy were 
on a scale of 1:50,000, those of the troop carrier 
routes and objective areas on a scale of 1:25,000. 
One innovation was the addition of 1:25,000 
photographic maps of routes and zones as they 
would appear at night. 

The wings received photographs from IX Troop 
Carrier Command at about the same time as the 
field orders. Coverage included run-in strips, 
obliques of landfall areas, and mosaics of drop 
zones and landing zones. These were identical 
with the photographs used by the airborne units. 
An agreement had been reached in March to 
consolidate airborne and troop carrier requests for 
photographic reconnaissance and to have photo- 
graphs and overlays standardized so that they 
could be used interchangeably by both parties. 

On 29 April, just after completion of the Tac- 
tical Air Plan, IX Troop Carrier Command had 
arranged to have experts from Ninth Air Force 
make terrain models of run-in and objective areas 
on a scale of 1:25,000 and of some particularly 
important places on a scale of 1:5,000. They had 
begun work on 4 May. Changes in plans after 26 
May had required additional models, particularly 
for the new zones of the 82d Division, but by 
1500 on 3 June all models were ready, and copies 
were on their way to the wings, which in turn 
loaned them out to their groups for briefing 
purposes. 73 

Except that one officer representative from each 
wing had participated in planning since about the 
beginning of March, IX Troop Carrier Command 
had carefully restricted information on -its im- 
pending missions to a small group of specially 
cleared officers on its own staff. A high-level 
briefing of troop carrier officers was scheduled for 
20 May but was postponed, and during the last 
five days of the month the unsettled state of plan- 
ning made briefing impossible. On the 31st Leigh- 
Mallory announced that high-level briefing could 
begin and Williams called a meeting for the next 
day. This was held at Northolt in the briefing room 

of Advance Troop Carrier Headquarters and was 
attended by wing and group commanders plus four 
or five key staff officers from each wing and two 
or three, usually the S-2, S-3, and Communica- 
tions Officer, from each group. The briefing was 
thorough, possibly too much so, since there were 
no less than a dozen speakers including Williams, 
Brereton, Ridgway, a British representative, a 
naval representative, and various other experts. 

After returning from Northolt the group com- 
manders of the 50th Wing held briefings for addi- 
tional members of their staffs and for squadron 
commanders, S-2's and S-3's on 2 June. With 
minor differences most other groups appear to 
have done likewise. 

Formal briefing of flying personnel was done on 
a group basis, although additional briefing was 
done by squadrons. Each group had its own sched- 
ule and procedure. Some began briefing on 3 
June, some on the 4th, and some, learning that 
operations had been postponed 24 hours, set back 
their schedules accordingly and began briefing 
on the 5th. 

When a single group was sending out 90 planes 
and some 400 men it was obviously undesirable 
to brief all its crews at once. In general, groups 
sending two serials briefed each separately, and 
the pilots, co-pilots and navigators of a serial 
were usually briefed separately from the radiomen 
and crew chiefs, who were given only limited and 
special information. Many of the pilots' briefings 
were addressed by airborne officers and attended 
by jumpmasters of the units they were to carry. 
To avoid unduly long meetings some groups split 
their data and saved part of it for later sessions. 
On the evening of D minus 1 final briefings were 
held from which in most cases the crews went 
directly to their planes. Not until those last meet- 
ings was the time of the mission announced. The 
briefings were generally rated as very good and 
the information in them thorough and accurate, as 
might be expected considering the unparalleled 
time and effort devoted to collecting it. During 
the last two or three days General Williams flew 
from group to group giving short talks to staff 
members and flight leaders. These, however, were 
"pep talks" rather than briefings. 74 

Between 28 May and 1 June the airborne divi- 
sions had moved onto the airfields from which they 
were to be flown. There they bivouacked in the 
most isolated spots available behind heavily 

28 Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. 

guarded barbed wire. The service troops keeping 
house for them were also isolated. On the arrival 
of the airborne units the troop carrier men were 
restricted, and so were the large numbers of British 
civilians living in the base areas. Current business 
provided pretexts for a surprising number of 
special passes, but the movement of military and 
civilian gossips and possible spies was successfully 
halted. Before briefing began, the bases were 
sealed to almost all personnel. Personal phone 
calls were prohibited, and all calls were monitored; 
pay phones were discontinued, and personal mail 
was put in special bags and stored until after 
D-day. All briefed personnel were segregated in) 
special quarters under officer guards who escorted j 
them even on trips to the latrine. Wing and group 
war rooms were also put under 24-hour guard, and 
so were the marshalling areas during the servicing 
and loading before take-off. 

The need for strict security in connection with 
airborne missions had always been recognized, but 
these measures were the strictest yet imposed. The 
fact that restrictions had been ordered during 
EAGLE and on several other occasions kept the 
uninitiated from realizing that something unusual 
was going on. Those who knew what was planned 
could not talk to those who did not, and many 
men at the bases learned with surprise after the 
planes were in the air that the long-awaited in- 
vasion had begun. While some surmised what was 
coming, they were unable to verify their surmises 
or to disseminate them outside the bases. 75 

English weather, famed for its unpredictability, 
nearly upset the entire invasion. Transports were 
at sea, the troop carrier bases had been sealed and 
the crews and their airborne passengers were being 
briefed when the high command found itself faced 
with the agonizing necessity of postponing NEP- 
TUNE perhaps indefinitely. 

The SHAEF weather forecast on 3 June for the 
5th, which was to be D-day, was unexpectedly 
bad. It predicted winds of 17 tp__22 knots, thick 
clouds below 500 feet and a four-foot surf on the 
Normandy beaches. Such winds were too high 
for paratroop drops. The low visibility would 
make the towing and landing of gliders next to 
impossible. Even amphibious landings would be 
hazardous in the high surf. Two anxious meetings 
by the principal Allied commanders ended with 
Eisenhower deciding to wait six hours for a new 
forecast. This was worse than the last, and about 

\ 04 15 on the 4th he ordered the invasion post- 
poned for 24 hours. 

At 2115 on the 4th the commanders met again 
and were told that a sudden shift in the weather 
pattern gave promise of an interval of relatively 
good weather for the next two days. Beyond that 
the outlook was dubious. There remained a cer- 
tainty of heavy surf, and a likelihood of high 
winds and low clouds. However, waiting another 
day was more likely to forfeit what opportunity 
there was than to gain better conditions, while 
further postponement was an appalling prospect 
because the next date suitable for the amphibious 
operations would be the 19th, which fell at a phase 
of the moon unsuitable for airborne missions. 
Moreover, the problems involved in keeping the 
force in readiness for two weeks more and still 
maintaining secrecy were staggering. It seemed 
better to gamble on the 6th. "I don't like it," said 
Eisenhower, "but I don't see how we can possibly 
do anything else." Leigh-Mallory liked it even 
less. Stormy weather and low visibility could play 
hob with all the missions assigned the AEAF. 
However, he conceded that given the expected lull, 
air support could be provided and airborne mis- 
sions would be practicable. Thus the invasion was 
set to take place on 6 June unless some new and 
extraordinary difficulty arose. The paratroops, its 
advance guard, would set out on the night of 
the 5th. 

Deception and Diversion 

In return for the trouble it gave them, the 
weather rewarded the Allies a hundredfold by giv- 
ing them an extraordinary opportunity for tactical 
surprise. Since the Germans had no outposts in 
the Atlantic to report the coming lull, they be- 
lieved that storm conditions would shield them 
from invasion for several days. Consequently they 
were caught with their patrol boats in harbor and 
their reconnaissance planes on the ground. 76 The 
only means by which they could know of the 
approaching armadas was by radar.* Along the 
invasion coast they had warning stations at aver- 
age intervals of approximately ten miles. The best 
of these had a maximum range of 150 miles at 
high altitudes and could pick up low-flying aircraft 

*They did intercept BBC messages' alerting the French re- 
sistance, but Rommel's army group staff, which was responsible 
for the defense of Normandy did not take them seriously and 
apparently did nothing to alert its subordinates. 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater- 


at a distance of 30 to 35 miles. In the normal 
course of things the operators would discover the 
troop carriers at least half an hour before they 
reached their objectives. 

Beginning on 10 May, the AEAF, occasionally 
assisted by Eighth Air Force and Bomber Com- 
mand, RAF, had conducted a bombing campaign 
to knock out these radar stations. They were hard 
to hit, and the effort devoted to them was limited 
by other and heavy commitments and by a rule 
that, to preserve security, two stations outside 
Normandy would be hit for every one inside it. On 
the other hand the stations were only moderately 
defended and scantily camouflaged, and none of 
the long-range sets were mobile. By D minus 1 
the system had been hammered until, according to 
subsequent Allied estimates, it was no more than 
18 percent operative and few, if any, sets were 
functioning between Le Havre and Barfleur. In 
addition, the headquarters of German signal in- 
telligence in northwest France had been bombed 
out on the night of D minus 3. 

Against the punch-drunk remnant of the Ger- 
man warning system the Allies employed a three- 
point program of countermeasures, jamming of 
warning and night fighter radar in the invasion 
area, simulation of an invasion north of the Seine, 
and simulated paratroop drops just far enough 
from the American and British drop areas to con- 
fuse the enemy as to the true location of his 
airborne assailants. In these operations 105 
planes, mostly RAF bombers, were employed and 
three were lost. 

Despite bombing and jamming, German radar 
apparently caught brief, ambiguous glimpses of 
mine-sweepers off the cost and troop carrier for- 
mations off Cherbourg, but was unable to see 
enough to recognize their full significance. Some 
troops may have been alerted as a result, but no 
general alarm was given until a majority of the 
airborne troops had landed. 

The fake invasion consisted of a few ships and 
planes using WINDOW and other devices to simu- 
late two large convoys headed respectively for the 
Le Havre and Boulogne areas and troop carrier 
serials making a drop a few miles from Le Havre. 
The airborne and seaborne feints at Le Havre, 
though well executed, had little effect, but that at 
Boulogne drew a violent reaction. The Germans 
opened up with searchlights and guns on the sup- 
posed convoy and between 0100 and 0400 sent 24 

night fighters against a patrol of 29 WINDOW- 
dropping bombers which was simulating air cover 
for the convoy. Thus at the very time when they 
might have been slashing at the troop carrier col- 
umns over Normandy, most of the Nazis' small 
stock of night fighters in northwest France were 
chasing will o' the wisps off the mouth of the 

The influence of these threats of invasion be- 
tween the Seine and the Straits of Dover in helping 
convince the German high command that the main 
Allied effort was going there rather than to Nor- 
mandy was probably of substantial strategic value 
in delaying the movement of German reserves into 
Normandy. It did not, however, affect the German 
forces already in the vicinity of the American 
airborne objectives. 

It is very doubtful whether the simulated mis- 
sion near Coutances designed to divert the enemy 
from the true American drop area had much effect. 
During the night, reports were received of landings 
m that area, but the Germans apparently reserved 
judgment on them pending reports of actual fight- 
ing. Postwar German assertions that their signal 
intelligence distinguished the true drops from the 
false by the presence or absence of radio activity 
seem questionable because for various reasons 
there was scarcely any radio activity that night in 
the genuine drop areas. 

Seventh Army, which commanded the German 
forces in Normandy, had a rough idea of the situa- 
tion by 0220, an hour and half after the main 
American drops began. Before 0300 it had identi- 
fied the Caen area and the eastern Cotentin as 
areas of concentration. By 0340 its chief of staff 
was convinced that a major operation involving 
those sectors was in progress, and by 0500 he had 
recognized that Ste Mere Eglise was the focal point 
in the American drop area and had guessed that 
the Allies meant to cut the narrow base of the 

What prevented Seventh Army for several hours 
from identifying the precise objectives of the 
American airborne missions was the accidental 
dispersion of the troops, who, as will be seen, had 
been spread over a 20-mile strip of the eastern 
Cotentin between Carentan and Valognes with 
some elements even more scattered. In the dark- 
ness even units in contact with them could only 
guess at their strength and distribution. Such 
information as was obtained filtered in slowly to 

30 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Airborne Invasion of Normandy, Etc. 

German higher headquarters, since paratroops 
were cutting wires and blocking roads at scores of 
places, and the French resistance forces were doing 
likewise all over Normandy. An extraordinary 
demonstration of the blindfold thus imposed on 
the Germans is the fact that as late as 1720 on 
D-day Seventh Army headquarters was still ig- 
norant of the amphibious landings on UTAH 
Beach, which had begun 13 hours before, and sup- 
posed that in the Cotentin it had only airborne 
troops to deal with. 77 

In summary, aside from the diversion of Ger- 
man night fighters, Allied efforts at deception had 
at most a slight effect on German opposition to 

the American airborne missions and, despite all 
attempts at secrecy, the Germans had some inkling 
of the impending invasion before midnight on D 
minus 1. However, it was too little, and too late 
for them to redeploy or even to issue a general 
alert before fighting began. They learned the 
general location of the assaults very quickly after 
that, but communication difficulties and the acci- 
dental dispersion of the paratroops prevented 
Seventh Army for four hours from making a 
precise estimate of their positions and objectives. 
Indeed, all through D-day German headquarters 
outside the invasion area had very little idea of 
what was going on inside it. 


The Assault 

The Pathfinders 

THE PATHFINDER force which was to blaze 
a way for the airborne missions of IX Troop 
Carrier Command consisted of 6 three-plane seri- 
als, one for each of the 6 drop zones, and another 
serial of 2 aircraft added in accordance with a 
late decision. The troops carried by this serial 
were to jump on Drop Zone C, move about a 
quarter-mile west and set up aids for the 101st 
Division's first glider mission. Each plane carried 
panels, holophane lights, two Eureka beacons, and 
a team of pathfinder troops averaging 13 in num- 
ber. In addition the pathfinders brought the two 
BUPS beacons. 

The pathfinder drops in the 101st Division area 
were to begin at 0020 and those for the 82d Divi- 
sion at 0121, Double British Summer Time, which 
was the time used throughout the operation. Mass 
drops by the respective divisions were to begin 
half an hour after their first pathfinders landed. It 
was estimated that at least one team from each 
serial would be in operation on its zone in time 
to guide them. 

The first pathfinder serial for the 101st Division 
took off from North Witham shortly before 2200 
with Colonel Crouch flying the lead plane. It 
crossed Portland Bill slightly ahead of scheduled 
time of 2324. Twilight still glimmered in the west- 
ern sky as the planes crossed the English coast. 

The expert pathfinder pilots and navigators had 
no trouble reaching Normandy. They crossed the 
Channel in good formation "on the deck," risking 
collision with Allied shipping, in order to conceal 
themselves from German warning radar. A favor- 

*For route and assault area orientation in this chapter refer 
respectively to Map No. 1, p. 13, and Map No. 2, p. 34, and 
Map No. 3, p. 37. 

ing wind brought them to HOBOKEN about five 
minutes ahead of schedule. After turning there, 
they relied on the outline of the coast and islands 
displayed on the scope of the SCR-717 to guide 
them safely between the antiaircraft guns of Alder- 
ney and Guernsey and to show them the proper 
points at which to make landfall. In this they were 
successful, although radar maps prepared to help 
them interpret the SCR-717 had not arrived in 
time to be used. After reaching Normandy the 
fliers relied on Gee and dead reckoning, supple- 
mented to the limited extent feasible by SCR-717 
and visual recognition of the terrain. 

The pathfinders for the 101st Division had been 
given a special course in order to facilitate their 
use of Gee. After passing Jersey they were to 
swing south of the main route, make a 90 degree 
turn to the left five miles offshore and fly east- 
northeast to points 2 or 3 miles south of Monte- 
bourg. There they would strike the Gee Chart 
lattice lines which passed through their respective 
drop zones, and make a 90 degree turn to the right 
to run down the lines to the zones. 

On approaching the Continent the pathfinders 
found their navigation impeded by a layer of 
clouds which extended from the western shores of 
the Cotentin almost to the drop area. Sporadic 
German fire, mostly from small arms, damaged 
eight planes slightly but had no serious effect. 
Planners had feared that the Germans might jam 
the Gee sets, but interference was negligible.* 

The lead serial navigated by Gee from landfall 
to destination, although it did get a visual check at 
the final turn. At 0016 the jump signal was given. 
The troops came down about a mile northeast of 

*To prevent jamming, new bands had been chosen at the 
last moment and each Gee set was put on a different frequency. 


The Assault 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 33 

the objective, Drop Zone A, northernmost zone of 
the 101st Division. Unable to reach DZ A in 
time, they set up their navigational aids near the 
village of St. Germain-de-Varreville. 

In the first serial for DZ C, the 101st Division's 
center drop zone, one plane was ditched with 
engine trouble before reaching Normandy. All 
aboard were rescued, the first of many to be picked 
up that day. The other two aircraft in the serial 
made their drop at 0025, having depended on Gee 
entirely except for some visual checks at the turn 
and a glimpse of Ste Mere Eglise by one crew. 
One stick of troops hit close to the zone and the 
other about half a mile southeast of it. The path- 
finder equipment was put up on the zone, but 
about a quarter-mile southeast of its planned 

The second serial to DZ C overshot the final 
turn but dropped its troops at 0027 between one 
and two miles south of the zone. However, the 
equipment brought by that serial was not to be 
used until dawn — for the glider missions — so the 
pathfinder troops had plenty of time to move into 

The serial which was headed for DZ D, the third 
and southernmost of the 101st Division zones, mis- 
judged its position because the Gee in the lead 
aircraft had not been properly set, failed to recog- 
nize its final turning point, and ran out over the 
east coast before discovering its mistake. It made 
a sweeping circle to the right and approached the 
DZ from the southeast over the Carentan estuary. 
The drop, believed to be accurate, was made at 
0045; the troops actually landed about a mile from 
the zone. 

The three pathfinder serials scheduled for the 
drop zones of the 8 2d Division were to go straight 
from PEORIA to their zones, just as the main 
paratroop serials of the division were to do. This 
course cut diagonally across the lattice lines of the 
Gee charts, a satisfactory if not ideal arrangement. 
An approach down the lattice lines was not feasible 
for them, since it would have required passing 
close to German antiaircraft concentrations. 

The pathfinder serial bound for DZ O, the zone 
outside Ste Mere Eglise, attempted to cross the 
Cotentin on Gee but swerved north, passed close 
to Valognes and made its final run parallel to the 
lattice lines. It was fired on but surprise and the 
cloudy weather saved it from serious damage. At 
1 1 15, six minutes ahead of schedule, it dropped its 

teams on the basis of Gee indications supple- 
mented by a visual check. All troops landed on or 
close to the zone. 

Of the two DZ's on the west side of the Mer- 
deret, the northernmost was called DZ T, the 
southern one DZ N. The three planes bound for 
DZ N made their approach according to plan at 
0138 and had a good look at the DZ area. Their 
navigators were sure the drop had been accurate, 
but the troops landed over a mile southeast of the 

The pathfinder serial for DZ T made landfall 
appreciably north of PEORIA, but made accurate 
use of Gee, sighted some landmarks near the zone, 
and dropped its team with precision. Unlike the 
other serials it had come in considerably above 
the prescribed altitude of 600 feet. 

The fact that most of the pathfinder pilots who 
supposed they had pinpointed their DZ's with 
Gee had actually missed them by over a mile was 
attributed by an AEAF radar expert to the navi- 
gators' relatively limited experience with Gee and 
to the combat conditions under which they worked. 
He thought the normal margin of error in such 
cases would be about three times as great as under 
favorable conditions. However, other factors be- 
sides Gee should be considered. Difficulty in al- 
lowing for the brisk northwest wind probably 
contributed to the deflection of some teams, and 
slight delays in jumping might account for an 
apparent tendency to overshoot. 
; At any rate, though only two serials achieved 
the degree of accuracy prescribed in the directives, 
all teams were put near enough their zones to 
perform their missions in spite of cloudy weather 
which might easily have caused the pilots to lose 
their way completely had they not had Gee to 
help them. 1 

ALBANY Mission and The 
Paratroop Operations of The 
101st Division 

Half an hour after the first pathfinders jumped, 
the main paratroop drops began. These were 
ALBANY, a mission by 432 aircraft carrying 
troops of the 101st Division, and BOSTON, a 
369-plane mission for the 82d Division. The mis- 
sions were divided into serials, most of which 
contained 36 or 45 planes. In 1943 it would have 

The Assault 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 35 

been all a group could do to contribute one such 
serial. Having been raised to almost double the 
1943 strength, all IX TCC's groups except the 
315th, the 442d, and the two groups responsible 
for the morning glider missions, were able to send 
two serials. 

Within the missions the interval between suc- 
cessive serials was to be six minutes from head to 
head. With two minor exceptions, each was made 
up entirely of nine-aircraft V's of V's in trail, 
with the leader of each nine-ship flight keeping 
1 ,000 feet behind the rear of the preceding flight. 
The leaders of the wing elements in each flight 
were to fly 200 feet behind and 200 feet to the 
right and left respectively of the rear planes in 
the lead element. Within each three-plane element 
the wingmen were to hold positions 100 feet back 
and 100 feet to the left and right of their leader. 
This was a tight formation at night for aircraft 
approximately 65 feet long and 95 feet from wing- 
tip to wingtip. 

A preliminary warning would be given to the 
paratroops when their plane was 20 minutes from 
its zone, and the door cover would then be re- 
moved. When four minutes from the DZ the lead 
pilot of each serial was to flash a red warning light 
by the door to alert the troops. They would then 
line up for the jump and would hitch their para- 
chutes to the static line. An order to flash the red 
light would be transmitted to the rest of the serial 
with a red Aldis lamp displayed by the radio oper- 
ator from the astrodome and would be passed on 
by the other flight leaders to the pilots behind 
them. Approaching the zone the formations would 
descend to 700 feet and slow down from the 
cruising speed of 140 miles an hour prescribed for 
the outward route to 110 miles an hour to give 
the paratroops the best possible drop. When in 
position over the drop zone the serial leader would 
give the green light which was the signal for an 
immediate jump. The signal would be passed back 
as before by a green Aldis lamp, with the flight 
leaders repeating the signal when they found them- 
selves at their jump point. Before the men jumped 
the crew chief and the paratroops nearest the door 
were to shove out bundles of supplies and equip- 
ment.* References in unit histories indicate that 
these procedures were generally followed. 

All pilots were adjured to drop all their troops. 
Evasive action prior to dropping was prohibited 

*The usual number of bundles was two. . 

lest it disrupt formations or throw the paratroops 
into confusion. Planes missing a drop zone on 
the first pass were to drop near it if possible. If 
they overshot so far as to find themselves over the 
east coast, they were to circle to the right and drop 
their loads on DZ D. Stragglers would be held 
responsible for finding their own way to their 
zones, using Rebecca if necessary. 

After completing the drop, the pilots were to 
dive down onto the deck and fly out over the coast 
to the St. Marcouf Islands at an altitude of 100 
feet as a precaution against antiaircraft and other 
ground fire in the coastal area. They would pro- 
ceed home at a cruising speed of 150 miles an hbur 
by way of GALLUP, and Portland Bill, climbing 
to 3,000 feet at GALLUP in accordance with 
agreements with the naval commander. Over 
England they would retrace the routes taken on 
the way out, except that the 50th Wing was au- 
thorized to take a 20-mile short cut from the coast 
to its wing assembly point. 2 

The loading, take-off and assembly of the troop 
carrier serials in ALBANY was accomplished as 
the 101st Division later reported with "notable 
efficiency." 3 This was the well-earned result of the 
many months spent in planning, training and 
preparation of equipment. 

It is true that both troops and planes were 
loaded to the limit. Some paratroops when fully 
laden weighed as much as 325 pounds and had to 
be boosted aboard their planes much as 14th 
century knights were hoisted onto their horses. 
Partly as a result of this individual overloading, 
some planes contained more than the 5,850 pounds 
prescribed in the field orders as the maximum. 
Also, several carried more than 18 paratroops, 
although this was considered the maximum for a 
good drop from a C-47. These overloads, gen- 
erally slight, did not hinder the flight of the planes 
but may have created some delay and confusion 
in the drops. 

Take-off went rapidly and smoothly despite the 
ban on use of radios. Blinker lights were used to 
control taxiing and take-offs. Not one plane had 
an accident, and none had to turn back. At Green- 
ham Common the 438th Group, which was to fly 
the lead serials, got 81 planes in the air between 
2232 and 2256, an average of 18 seconds per 
plane. The 441st at Merryfield reported that its 
aircraft took off at average intervals of 10 seconds 
apiece. Other groups made similar time. Such 

36 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Assault 

speed was made possible by high proficiency and 
the excellence of the British airfields. 

Assembly, never an easy matter at night, was 
handled with equal success. All serials spiraled 
into formation over their home fields and swung 
onto course over ELKO at approximately the 
prescribed six-minute intervals. 4 

The weather over England was then in process 
of changing and varied from hour to hour, and 
from base to base. The wind ranged from 10 to 
30 miles per hour from the north and west. Cloudi- 
ness ran the gamut from none to 10/10, the over- 
cast, fortunately, being above 4,000 feet. However, 
over the Channel the sky was generally clear and 
visibility excellent. As one pilot put it "It was a 
beautiful night. You could fly formation by 
moonlight." 3 

Under these conditions navigation was easy as 
far as HOBOKEN. Apparently all the serials in 
ALBANY approached Normandy on course and 
in good formation. Almost all were four or five 
minutes ahead of schedule, probably because of 
the wind, but the condition was so general that 
they kept their relative positions and did not over- 
run each other. 

The coastline at the IP was visible, but immedi- 
ately beyond it the mission ran into an unforeseen 
obstacle which disrupted its formations and very 
nearly caused it to fail. This was the cloudbank 
already encountered by the pathfinders. It ex- 
tended solidly for 10 or 12 miles inland, becoming 
progressively thinner and more broken between 
the center of the peninsula and the east coast. 
Near the IP the base of this layer was at an alti- 
tude of 1,100 feet and its top at about 2,000 feet. 
With any sort of warning the troop carriers could 
have flown over or under it, but no provision for 
such a warning had been made, and radio silence 
was in effect. Thus the pilots, flying at 1,500 feet 
as prescribed, did not know of the overcast until 
it loomed up close ahead, and most of the forma- 
tions plunged into the heart of it. 

The first four ALBANY serials, two from the 
438th Group at Greenham Common and two from 
the 436th Group at Membury, consisted of 36, 45, 
36, and 54 aircraft respectively. They had been 
given the task of bringing the 502d Parachute In- 
fantry Regiment and the 377th Parachute Field 
Artillery Battalion to DZ A. The lead plane of the 
first serial was flown by Lt. Col. John M. Donal- 
son, commander of the 438th. DZ A was a rough 

oval about a mile and a half long from west to east 
and about a mile wide, situated 2V6 miles east of 
Ste Mere Eglise and half a mile southwest of St. 
Martin-de-Varreville. Only a mile east of the 
zone were the flooded areas behind UTAH Beach, 
a hazard to troops who were slow to jump or 
whose pilot overshot. Like all zones of the 101st, 
DZ A was on low, flat land broken into small 
fields and orchards. 

These four lead serials had the easiest approach 
of any. They reported light, scattered clouds over 
Normandy but apparently had little trouble keep- 
ing clear of them. They had greater difficulty with 
a ground fog which limited visibility in the drop 
area to about three miles. Moreover, they achieved 
a degree of surprise which gave them substantial 
protection from the enemy. The lead flight reached 
the drop area without being under fire; the second 
was near Ste Mere Eglise when first shot at; and all 
the rest of the 438th was several miles inland be- 
fore the enemy went into action. The serials of the 
436th came under fire soon after landfall, but it 
was inaccurate, sporadic and mostly from small 
arms. So feeble was the opposition that the two 
groups lost no aircraft, suffered no serious damage, 
and had no casualties. In the 438th Group five or 
six planes received slight damage, mostly bullet 
holes, and 11 in the 436th had similar petty 

The pathfinder troops allotted to DZ A had been 
unable to get their beacons in operation in time 
for the arrival of the first serial of the 438th Group, 
so Colonel Donalson made his approach and drop 
on Gee. His passengers jumped at 0048,* two 
minutes ahead of time, from the prescribed alti- 
tude. By 0058 the Group had completed its drop, 
although several planes had had to circle back for 
a second pass. Of 1,430 troops carried in the first 
two serials all jumped but one man who had been 
stunned by a fall. 

About the time the second serial of the 438th 
reached the drop area, the pathfinders got a Eu- 
reka beacon and an amber T into operation near 
St. Germain-de-Varreville, a mile north of the 
zone. The 436th Group obtained responses from 
the Eureka at a point 10 miles away, probably at 
the moment the set was switched on. Some pilots 
also sighted the amber T. Several pilots had to 
make extra passes, and one made three to get all 

*So states the operations report. The group history gives 
the time as 0044. 

Map 3. 

38 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Assault 

his troops out; a bundle had stuck in the door on 
his first run. The 436th had carried 1,084 men 
and 12 guns and dropped all but two or three 
injured men and one who refused to jump. 

Both groups reported their drops as ranging 
from good to excellent, and unit histories, written 
some three weeks later, reiterate assertions that 
the drops were both accurate and compact. Ac- 
tually, none of the four serials had done very well, 
and one had done very badly.* Colonel Donalson's 
lead serial had dropped the 2d Battalion of the 
502d PIR compactly but inaccurately. Through 
some maladjustment or misinterpretation of his 
Gee set, Donalson gave his troops the green light 
on the far edge of DZ C, three miles south of DZ A, 
and 26 of his pilots in tight formation followed his 
example. Six others dropped within a mile of 
this concentration. One straggler in the serial put 
his load within a mile of DZ A; one dropped five 
miles northwest of that zone; and one stick was 
missing, f 

The second serial of the 438th was more accu- 
rate than its predecessor, but seems to have flown 
a rather loose formation. Its leader dropped his 
troops, members of the 3d Battalion of the 502d, 
near the south side of DZ A, but none of his 
flight dropped with him. He may have relied on 
Gee, while the others homed on the Eureka near 
St. Germain. At any rate, 36 of the pilots put 
their sticks in an area about four miles long from 
west to east and about two miles wide, with the 
pathfinder aids at its center. Three others, includ- 
ing the leader, dropped within two miles of the 
zone; five impatient pilots dumped their men three 
or four miles short of the DZ, and one stick went 
unaccounted for. 

The lead serial of the 436th Group, which car- 
ried the 1st Battalion of the 502d PIR, placed 20 
of its 36 loads, including those of the leader and 
his two wingmen, within about a mile of the bea- 
cons. These can be considered as dropped from a 
loose formation onto what appeared to be the 

*Discussions of drop accuracy in NEPTUNE must be re- 
garded as approximations. General Taylor and his staff, though 
dropped comparatively close to their zone, did not know where 
they were until dawn, and this apparently was true of a majority 
of the paratroops. Since they moved about constantly in zig- 
zags during the night attempting to assemble, to gather equip- 
ment, to engage or avoid the enemy and to reach their objec- 
tives, they might at dawn be several miles from where they had 
come down and with only a vague idea of the direction and ex- 
tent of their wanderings. 

tSticks described as missing were so listed in reports a month 
or more after D-day. In most cases that means that no mem- 
ber of the stick had returned to duty at that time. 

drop zone. Of the rest, 4 were within a mile of 
the original zone and 6 between one and 2 miles 
from it. Presumably their pilots had straggled 
slightly and had used landmarks or dead reckon- 
ing to pick their drop points. Another 4 sticks 
landed between 2 and 4 miles from DZ A; one 
load fell in the Channel; and one was listed as 

In contrast to this respectable performance was 
that of the second serial of the 436th, which was 
supposed to deliver the 377th Parachute Field 
Artillery and 12 of its guns, a planeload of medics, 
and 5 planes of supplies. All the flights in this 
formation missed the DZ by a wide margin, and 
all but the first 2 flights had become badly dis- 
persed before they made their drops. Those 2 
flights followed a line of approach which passed 
about 3 miles north of the DZ. The first did 
drop its troops about 3 miles away near St. 
Marcouf , a village near the coastal marshes which 
might have been mistaken for St. Martin-de- Varre- 
ville. The second flight dropped prematurely from 
5 to 7 miles northwest of the zone. The last 
four flights in the serial got thoroughly lost and 
badly dispersed. How they did so, and why hardly 
any of them recognized and corrected their errors 
is anybody's guess. Most made a pronounced de- 
viation to the north, with the result that 5 sticks 
were dropped beyond Valognes at points between 
10 and 20 miles northwest of the zone; and 21 
loads came down between 5 and 10 miles north 
of it; and 2 sticks went unaccounted for. Of the 
8 sticks which landed within a 5-mile radius of the 
zone, only one was within a mile of it and one 
other within 2 miles. If the 2 pilots delivering 
them knew approximately where they were, they 
were the only ones in the serial who did. 7 

The mission of the units dropped on DZ A was 
to seize the exits of Causeways 3 and 4 which were 
a little more than a mile away to the southeast and 
northeast respectively. In addition the paratroops 
were to clean up German positions near St. Martin- 
de-Varreville and to establish a defense on the 
north flank of the 101st Division on a line running 
from the marshes near St. Germain-de-Varreville 
to a contact-point with the 82d Division near 

The 2d Battalion of the 502d Parachute Infan- 
try Regiment, despite its excellent concentration, 
had such trouble in assembling and orienting itself 
in its unexpected location that it played little part 

The Assault 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 39 

in the action on D-day. This difficulty was in part 
caused by the dense hedges which split most of 
that part of Normandy into a maze of little fields 
known as the bocage. 

The 3d Battalion, scattered as it was, achieved 
its objectives. It was scheduled to help the 2d 
Battalion if necessary in neutralizing a coastal bat- 
tery west of St. Martin-de-Varreville, but its 
principal task was to capture the causeway exits. 
Lt. Col. Robert G. Cole, the battalion commander, 
hit the ground about half a mile west of the drop 
zone, made a false start toward Ste Mere Eglise, 
discovered where he was, and headed eastward 
across the zone toward his objectives. On the way 
he picked up about 75 men including some from 
the 8 2d Division and several others who did not 
belong to his battalion. They reconnoitered the 
coastal battery about 0400 and found that it had 
been dismantled and abandoned as a result of 
damage recently inflicted by the RAF. Already 
at the battery were the commander of the 2d Bat- 
talion and a dozen of his men waiting in vain for 
the rest of their unit. With the battery disposed of, 
Cole decided to attack the causeways. He divided 
his men into groups, one to take Exit 4,* another 
Exit 3, and another to go to DZ C and make con- 
tact with the 506th PIR. Exit 4 was found unoc- 
cupied but unusable, because German guns to 
the northwest could rake the causeway. Cole led 
the assault on Exit 3 and took it easily before 
0730. When, about two hours later, German 
forces driven from the beaches began retreating 
across that causeway, they were easy game for 
the entrenched paratroops, who killed over 50 of 
them without losing a man. At 1300 the first 
American patrol from the beaches arrived at the 
exit. Following the patrol came the 1st Battalion, 
8th Infantry Regiment, which moved inland from 
the causeway and bivouacked that night about two 
miles east of it. At the end of the day Cole's bat- 
talion, then numbering about 250 men, was or- 
dered into regimental reserve. It had accomplished 
its mission. 

The 1 st Battalion of the 502d, which was sup- 
posed first to destroy the German troops quartered 
on the outskirts of St. Martin-de-Varreville and 
then to establish a defensive line on the northern 
flank of the division, achieved even more spec- 
tacular results than the 3d, and with even fewer 
men. Its commander, Lt. Col. Patrick J. Cassidy, 

*See Map No. 3, p. 37. 

landed near the pathfinder beacons outside St. 
Germain,* collected a small force, composed 
mostly of his own men, and marched on St. Mar- 
tin. By 0630 he had reached there and set up a 
command post. Keeping part of C Company in 
reserve, he first checked the situation at Exits 3 
and 4, then sent about 15 men to attack the Ger- 
man quarters. With a few later additions this 
handful of men with tommy guns, bazookas and 
grenades took the massive stone buildings in which 
the Germans had barricaded themselves. Before 
they finished the job at 1530 they had killed or 
captured over 150 of the enemy. 

Meanwhile some 45 men of A Company had 
undertaken the task of defending the division's 
northern perimeter. During the morning they 
seized the village of Foucarville and by early after- 
noon had established four roadblocks in that area. 
The Germans around Foucarville greatly outnum- 
bered them, but contented themselves with unag- 
gressive patrolling. Late in the afternoon the 
arrival of 200 more paratroops at Cassidy's CP 
enabled him to move reinforcements onto the 
northern flank. He thereupon sent his reserve, C 
Company, to occupy the Beuzeville sector of the 
perimeter, two miles inland from Foucarville. The 
company encountered such stiff resistance that 
Cassidy hastily dispatched B Company, which had 
assembled during the afternoon, to move into line 
on C's left flank. As yet there was no contact with 
the 8 2d Division and the thinly held perimeter 
seemed for a time to be in danger. However, the 
low quality and morale of the enemy and the 
advance of Allied forces from UTAH Beach saved 
the day. 

The German forces facing A Company lost their 
nerve and shortly before midnight at least 137 of 
them hoisted the white flag. About the same time 
two battalions of the 22d Infantry Regiment, 
which, unable to cross on Causeway 4, had spent 
seven hours wading through the marshes, were 
plodding into St. Germain-de-Varreville, and the 
12th Infantry Regiment, which had also waded the 
marshes, was moving into position in the Beuze- 
ville sector ready to take the offensive next day. 
Thus the independent operations of the 502d were 
successfully concluded within 24 hours after its 

*One statement that he landed "in the middle of the batta- 
lion drop zone near St. Germain-de-Varreville" is self-contra- 
dictory. (UTAH Beach to Cherbourg, (Washington, 1948) p. 

40 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Assault 

As for the 377th Field Artillery Battalion, only 
a handful of its men played a significant part in 
the fighting on D-day, and only one of its 12 guns 
supported the operations of the 101st Division. 
Scattered many miles north and west of the drop 
area, the artillerymen engaged the enemy in in- 
numerable little fights and showed great resource- 
fulness in regaining the Allied lines, but their 
actions had at best a nuisance value. 8 

The next three serials in ALBANY were 45 
aircraft of the 439th Group from Upottery carry- 
ing the headquarters and 1st Battalion of the 506th 
Parachute Infantry Regiment, 36 from the group 
carrying the 2d Battalion of the 506th, and 45 
planes of the 435th Group from Welford with the 
3d Battalion of the 501st PIR plus divisional head- 
quarters and artillery and signal personnel. The 
lead plane of the 439th was flown by the group 
commander, Lt. Col. Charles H. Young, and had 
on board Col. Robert L. Sink, commander of the 
506th PIR. In the lead aircraft of the 435th 
Group, which was flown by the group commander, 
Col. Frank J. MacNees, were General Taylor and 
several of his staff, and the second plane of that 
group carried the 101st Division's artillery com- 
mander, Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe. 

The destination of these serials was DZ C, 
an oval 1 Vi miles long from west to east and over 
a mile wide. It was 2Vi miles south of DZ A and 
a mile east of the highway from Carentan to Ste 
Mere Eglise. Through it went a road running east 
from the hamlet of les Forges on the highway to 
the village of Ste Marie-du-Mont. A large flooded 
area just southwest of les Forges provided a land- 
mark to guide the troop carriers' approach. 

The formations of the 439th and 435th reached 
Normandy in good shape, only to run squarely and 
unexpectedly into the cloudbank which covered 
the western Cotentin. Colonel Young climbed 
through the overcast on instruments, descended 
through a hole in the clouds 1 1 miles inland, and 
headed for the drop zone using Gee and Rebecca. 
The pathfinders responsible for DZ C had man- 
aged to get a Eureka beacon in operation a few 
moments earlier. However, loss of lights and the 
presence of enemy troops had prevented them from 
setting up a T. All they could do was to flash a 
single green Aldis lamp. Young apparently did 
not see this, but he did recognize the principal 
landmarks around the DZ and dropped accurately 

at a bend in the road to Ste Marie-du-Mont on the 
northeast side of the zone at or slightly before his 
scheduled time of 0114. 

All but a few of Colonel Young's serial had lost 
contact with him in the clouds and their formation 
had loosened and broken. The other two serials 
disintegrated. This was natural, since in the over- 
cast pilots generally lost sight of the dimmed lights 
of planes in other flights and were often unable to 
see even the planes in their own element. In addi- 
tion, they had reacted to the situation in different 
ways, some going stubbornly ahead, others climb- 
ing to get above the clouds or diving to get under 

On emerging from the overcast they were 
harassed by light flak and small arms fire which 
was moderately severe over the last eight miles of 
the route. Its effect was intensified by the fact 
that many stragglers passed over danger spots 
such as Pont l'Abbe (Etienville) a mile or two off 
the proper course. Three planes in the 439th 
Group were shot down and crashed with their 
crews. The pilot of one of them, Lt. Marvin F. 
Muir, saved his paratroops at the cost of his own 
life by holding his burning craft steady while they 
jumped. The group had a total of 27 aircraft dam- 
aged, but only 3 severely enough to need the 
attentions of a service unit later. Three planes in 
the serial from the 435th Group blew up or went 
down in flames before reaching the drop zone; 
the only survivors were a few troops who were 
lining up at the door of one plane when it was hit. 
Seven other planes in the group were hit, but not 
seriously damaged. 

In spite of its difficulties, Colonel Young's serial 
managed to give its troops a fairly good drop. 
Only two or three serials in NEPTUNE did better. 
Besides Young himself 14 pilots put their loads on 
or almost on DZ C. Another 13 bunched their 
sticks within a mile and a half east and southeast 
of the zone. The rest straggled. Six dropped 
troops from three to five miles north of DZ C; 
another dropped seven miles north, and four did 
so about five miles south on the far side of the 
Douve river. Very much on the debit side were a 
pilot who ended up 17 miles to the north and a 
three-plane element which dropped its unfortunate 
troops 21 miles to the northwest. 

The second serial of the 439th, besides becom- 
ing rather dispersed, had swung three or four 

The Assault 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 41 

degrees to the north onto a line of flight which 
brought it over Ste Mere Eglise. The paratroops, 
seeing beneath them green T's, which had been set 
up for the 8 2d Division on DZ O, clamored that 
they were being taken past their zone. The pilots 
in the front of the serial knew this was not the 
case and flew straight on, headed perhaps for the 
Eureka outside St. Germain-de-Varreville. A dozen 
dropped troops in a loose pattern in the general 
vicinity of St. Germain, and another five placed 
their sticks slightly south of there near DZ A. In 
the rear of the serial, 14 well-bunched planes 
made their drop prematurely close to Ste Mere 
Eglise. Either their pilots had mistaken DZ O for 
DZ C or they had yielded to the demands of the 
paratroops for an immediate drop. One plane in 
the serial put its stick within a mile of DZ C and 
2 others came within 2 miles of it. Only one stick, 
6 miles to the north, was outside a five-mile radius 
of the zone. One was missing. 

The 435th Group made its first drops about 
0120, six minutes ahead of schedule. Its serial 
had scattered so widely that at least 25 stragglers 
felt justified in using Rebecca. This action was 
probably decisive in enabling most of them to 
make a good drop. The Eureka signals came 
through strong and only slightly cluttered despite 
the heavy use. With their aid about 20 pilots 
came close enough to the pathfinders to see their 
green light blinking. However, several overshot 
the zone and had to circle for a second try. 

None of the group hit DZ C, but 25 dropped 
troops or supplies within W2 miles of it. Of these, 
16 bunched their loads close to the east end of the 
zone near the pathfinder aids. All but one of that 
bunch were from the first 21 planes in the serial, 
and among them were the first two sticks with 
Generals Taylor and McAuliffe. Another six 
sticks came down between IV2 and 3 miles from 
the DZ. For some strange reason eight pilots of 
various flights concentrated their loads near St. 
Jores about eight miles southwest of DZ C on 
the south side of the Douve. Since it is unlikely 
that they would make the same gross mistake 
independently, the presumption is that these pilots 
had formed an improvised flight after emerging 
from the overcast and made their erroneous ap- 
proach in formation behind a pilot who either did 
not use radar or could not use it properly. Three 
other loads were dropped between 5 and 10 miles 

from the zone, and one bewildered pilot of the 
435th returned to base with his troops.* 

In all, the 439th Group had carried 1.357 
troops to Normandy and dropped all but about 33 
— those whose planes were shot down, one 
wounded man, and one who refused to jump. The 
435th had carried 677 and dropped 626. Of the 
others, 36 were shot down, 13 were with the pilot 
who lost his way, and 2 had equipment trouble. 9 
The paratroops on DZ C had been assigned to 
take the exits of the two southern causeways and 
to clear the Germans from the vicinity. Exit If 
was near the hamlet of Pouppeville, two miles 
east of the DZ, and Exit 2 was two miles northeast 
of the zone. Unable to assemble more than a frac- 
tion of their men, the paratroop commanders 
found it difficult to reach their objectives in the 
face of opposition. 

The taking of the exits had been entrusted to the 
2d Battalion of the 506th PIR, but few of its men 
landed near the drop zone, its main concentrations 
being near Ste Mere Eglise and St. Germain-de- 
Varreville. By 0330 almost 200 of its troops and 
20 from the 82d Division had assembled hear St. 
Germain under the battalion commander. They 
set out about 0430 for the causeways, but machine 
gun nests and interdictory artillery fire so slowed 
their progress that not until 1330 did a few men 
work their way around the German strongpoints 
to Exit 2. They found it already in American 
hands and crowded with troops, tanks and guns. 
The 8th Infantry Regiment had made its way 
across from UTAH beach before noon and secured 
the exit. The paratroops enlisted the aid of some 
of the soldiers and tanks at the exit to mop up the 
German strongpoints blocking the progress of 
the main body of the 2d Battalion. This was 
quickly done, and by 1530 the battalion was in 
position at Exit 2 with about 300 men at its 

Despite the relatively good drop given by Colo- 
nel Young's serial to Regimental Headquarters 
and the 1st Battalion of the 506th, they were 
unable to assemble quickly. One reason for this 
was lack of communications. Most of the signal 
equipment and all the operators had come down 
many miles outside the drop area. Two hours 
after the drop only about 45 men from head- 

*He tried again next night with the 435th's glider serial and 
made a successful drop. 
tSee Map No. 3, p. 37. 

42 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Assault 

quarters and 50 from the 1st Battalion had gath- 
ered under Colonel Sink at Culoville on the south 
side of the zone. These troops had been designated 
as regimental reserve, but at dawn Sink, having 
heard nothing from the other battalions, sent what 
he had of the 1st Battalion to take Exit 1. Delayed 
by a series of skirmishes, they were unable to 
reach the exit until mid-afternoon. They found 
the 3d Battalion of the 501st PIR already in 

About 90 men of that battalion under their 
commander, Lt. Col. Julian Ewell, and 60 mem- 
bers of divisional headquarters, including Generals 
Taylor and McAuliffe, had managed to assemble 
during the night. Though only a short distance 
southeast of the drop zone, none of them knew 
where they were until the rising sun revealed the 
church tower of Ste Marie-du-Mont looming 
above the trees. Soon after daybreak General 
Taylor ordered an attack on Exit 1 by the head- 
quarters troops and EwelPs battalion, which had 
been intended for divisional reserve. Ignorant of 
how the rest of his division was faring and aware 
that American possession of the causeways was 
essential, Taylor was staking everything on a bid 
to take one. 

At 0600 some 60 paratroops of the 501st under 
Ewell and 25 from divisional headquarters, includ- 
ing the two generals, set out for Pouppeville. The 
little force was top heavy with rank. Taylor re- 
marked dryly that never were so few led by so 
many. Except for one brief encounter they ad- 
vanced unopposed to Pouppeville, picking up 
about 60 more men along the way. About 0900 
on the outskirts of Pouppeville they ran into stub- 
born resistance from Germans of the 1058th 
Grenadier Regiment, part of the 91st Division. 
The attackers lacked men and firepower for a 
real assault and had to squeeze the Nazis out in 
house-to-house fighting which lasted until noon. 
Casualties numbered 18 paratroops and 25 Ger- 
mans, and 38 Germans were taken prisoner. A 
few minutes after the village was taken elements 
of the 8th Infantry Regiment crossed the causeway 
and established contact between airborne and 
seaborne forces. 

Meanwhile the situation back at DZ C was diffi- 
cult and dangerous. About 150 paratroops gath- 
ered during the morning at a divisional headquar- 
ters set up at Hiesville by a few men Taylor had 
left behind. At noon they were reinforced by over 

100 troops who had landed at dawn in the CHI- 
CAGO glider mission. Colonel Sink's CP at 
Culoville was also reinforced by more than 70 
additional men of the 1st Battalion of the 506th 
PIR who had found their way to the DZ. These, 
however, seemed all too few. The enemy were 
swarming around like hornets and twice pushed 
attacks close enough to threaten the Culoville posi- 
tion. Unknown to the Allies, the Germans had 
installed an entire battalion of the 191st Artillery 
Regiment in and around Ste Marie-du-Mont. 
Many paratroops who landed near their positions 
had been shot before they could get free of their 
chutes. The rest gave a good account of them- 
selves and even took one of the German batteries, 
but it was not until after 1420 when elements of 
the 8th Infantry Regiment pushed into the town 
that the issue was decided and German resistance 
in Ste Marie was broken. 

At the end of the afternoon the portions of the 
1st and 2d Battalions of the 506th PIR which had 
been at the causeways returned to DZ C, giving 
Colonel Sink a total of some 650 men, including 
a few from other units. Their initial task had been 
accomplished, and the 2d and 3d Battalions of the 
8th Infantry Regiment had moved into positions 
around les Forges thus shielding the 506th from 
the west. However, efforts to seal off and occupy 
the area between them and the Douve had not 
succeeded, and the situation there was so chaotic 
that General Taylor, returning from Pouppeville, 
ordered the 506th to make a reconnaissance in 
force into this no-man's land next morning. 10 

The last serials of ALBANY were two of 45 
aircraft apiece, flown by the 441st Group from 
Merryfield, and one of like size by the 440th 
Group from Exeter. The first serial carried the 
1st Battalion, part of the 2d Battalion, and Regi- 
mental Headquarters of the 501st Parachute In- 
fantry Regiment. In its lead plane were Lt. Col. 
Theodore Kershaw, the group commander, and 
Col. Howard R. Johnson, the regimental com- 
mander. The second serial contained most of the 
2d Battalion of the 501st, half an engineer com- 
pany, and some medical personnel. The last serial 
carried the 3d Battalion of the 506th PIR and the 
rest of the engineer company. The destination of 
these serials was DZ D. 

Ten days before the invasion this zone had 
been located about three quarters of a mile south- 
west of DZ C, and only the 3d Battalion, 506th 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 43 

PIR, was scheduled to drop on it, the battalion's 
mission being to secure the southern perimeter of 
the 101st Division along the Douve. At that time 
the 501st PIR (less the 3d Battalion) was sup- 
posed to jump on DZ B, 1V 2 miles south of Ste 
Mere Eglise for the purpose of taking that town 
and the bridges over the Merderet at la Fiere and 
Chef-du-Pont. On 27 May when those tasks were 
transferred to the 82d Division, the 501st was 
shifted to DZ D to help hold the Douve line. 11 

Since new objectives of the 501st were about 
2 1/2 miles south of DZ D, the zone was relocated 
about a mile further south at the request of the 
regimental commander. Its new position was be- 
tween Angoville-au-Plain and Basse Addeville, a 
hamlet 1,200 yards east of St. C6me-du-Mo'nt. 
Somewhat smaller than the other DZ's, it was less 
than 1 Va miles long from east to west and slightly 
under a mile across. 

In making their final approach to the zone, the 
pilots would have four landmarks to guide them: 
the junction of the Douve and Merderet, AV2 miles 
from the zone; the railway, 2Vz miles from the 
zone, the flooded area which lay east of the rail- 
road north of the line of flight; and the north- 
south highway to Carentan, which they would 
cross less than a mile before reaching the DZ. A 
secondary road to Ste Marie-du-Mont skirted the 
west end of the zone. 

The 441st and 440th Groups, like their pre- 
decessors, had little trouble reaching Normandy, 
but over the French coast the first serial of the 
441st ran into the clouds and broke up. The two 
lead flights of the second serial ducked under the 
overcast and kept formation, but its other flights 
hit the cloud-bank and dispersed. The serial from 
the 440th appears to have avoided the clouds and 
held together. 

Little fire was encountered over the western part 
of the Cotentin. The 441st reported considerable 
shooting near St. Sauveur de Pierre Pont and at 
other points between there and the DZ. The 440th 
had scant opposition until it was within six miles 
of the zone. Then it received intense light flak and 
automatic fire which caused many pilots to take 
evasive action and drop out of formation. Search- 
lights and magnesium flares further loosened the 
formations by dazzling pilots and forcing them to 
dodge. Some searchlights were quickly attacked 
and extinguished by Allied night-fighters but others 
survived long enough to cause trouble. Very in- 

tense flak and automatic weapons fire was en- 
countered on DZ D and immediately west and 
east of it.* The Germans had spotted the area as 
a likely one for airborne use and were present in 
force. Fortunately their fire was not accurate, and 
the actual number of antiaircraft guns was prob- 
ably small. The rate of aircraft losses for the 
three serials was less than 5 percent. One plane of 
the 441st blew up before reaching the drop area, 
and another crashed soon after dropping its load. 
A third, hit by antiaircraft fire as it left the DZ, 
made a forced landing near Cherbourg, its crew 
ultimately reaching the Allied lines in safety. One 
plane limped home good for nothing but salvage, 
and 14 others in the 441st were damaged, f In the 
440th two planes were shot down by intense ma- 
chine-gun fire over the DZ, and another, hit as it 
left the zone, plunged into the sea. A dozen other 
craft of the 440th suffered damage but were 
quickly repaired. 

A Eureka which the pathfinders had set up west 
of the zone was received up to 17 miles away. 
Signals from the beacon on DZ A were also re- 
ceived, but were readily distinguished from the 
correct ones by their coding and by their position 
on the Rebecca scope. The lighted T supposed to 
mark the zone was not observed. The enemy there- 
about were so numerous and active that the path- 
finder troops had been unable to operate the lights. 
Except that the lead pilot of the 441st made some 
use of Gee to check his position, the three serials 
relied on Rebecca-Eureka or on visual recognition 
to locate the zone. The Rebecca was a poor guide 
at close range, and the cloud-swept landscape 
proved hard to identify. Many stragglers from the 
first serial of the 441st and some from other serials 
had to make two or three passes to orient them- 
selves. Some of them grew completely confused 
and ended up by making drops many miles from 
the drop area. However, most pilots believed that 
they had achieved accuracy, and only one, a mem- 
ber of the 441st Group, gave up after three at- 
tempts and went home with his load. 

At 0126, five minutes ahead of schedule, the 
first serial of the 441st started its drop. The next 
began at 0134. Between them they carried 1,475 

t u *°," e t accou ! lt states th at some planes had not turned off all 
their lights and so attracted fire. (Hist 302d TC Sq, Jun 44.) 

tOne aircraft had collided with a bundle dropped by a Diane 
ahead of it. (Hist 301st TC Sq, Jun 44.) Considering the huge 
number of planes and the- general failure to keep formation 
it is almost miraculous that there were not more accidents of 
this sort. 



in Operation NEPTUNE 

a i t i < > 

A sncu of »ii Htttntf awn m stn 




sc amnion > m id i»r;»L:oii scs i« 
mm W 'i uteioeo for orop »tt o 

The Assault 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 45 

troops, of which they dropped at least 1,429. 
Returned were one soldier who had fainted and 
12 who had slipped in vomit and had become 
entangled. The drop by the 440th Group began 
at 0140. Out of 723 troops carried 719 jumped. 
Flak had wounded one man, and he had blocked 
the exit of the other three. 

The return of the ALBANY serials was gen- 
erally uneventful after they left Normandy. Over 
the Channel the sky was becoming overcast, but 
the clouds were above 4,000 feet, and visibility 
was good. In southern England there were scat- 
tered squalls, one of which caused returning planes 
to stack up for a time over Membury. Except in 
the 438th and 440th Groups most of the pilots 
returned singly or in small formations. Some must 
have wandered far and wide, for the flow of re- 
turnees lasted from 0210 when the first plane 
reached Greenham Common until about 0430. 12 

The airborne units which the 440th and 441st 
Groups had been responsible for dropping on DZ 
D had been assigned to cover the left flank of VII 
Corps by holding or destroying all crossings of 
the Douve below its junction with the Merderet. 
Although protected by the river from German 
forces to the south, they were six long miles away 
from UTAH Beach, and their task turned out to 
be much more difficult than had been expected. 

The 1st Battalion, 501st PIR, was to seize and 
hold a lock at la Barquette half a mile south of 
DZ D and only a mile and a half north of Caren- 
tan. Besides its utility as a crossing, the lock was 
valued as a means of controlling the tidal flooding 
of the Douve marshes.* The 2d Battalion and 
engineers with it were to seize and demolish the 
bridges over the Douve on the north-south highway 
to Carentan about a mile southwest of la Bar- 
quette. The 501st had as secondary objectives the 
taking of St. C6me-du-Mont and the destruction 
of a railroad bridge across the river about a mile 
west of the highway. The 3d Battalion, 506th PIR, 
was to take two wooden bridges in the le Port area 
a mile and a half east of la Barquette. 

The headquarters and first battalion of the 501st 
PIR had received only a partially satisfactory drop. 
Some 19 planes, including the three in the lead 
element of the serial put their sticks on DZ D or 
close to its southern edge. Two others came within 

*This flooding never became necessary. It probably would 
not have been quick enough to be effective had the Germans 
launched a sudden assault. 

a couple of miles of it. On the other hand, the 
whole last flight veered north of course onto a line 
passing close to DZ C. Eight of its nine loads 
landed between two and four miles northwest of 
DZ D between Chef-du-Pont and DZ C, and the 
other was about three miles further east on the 
same line of flight. One stick came down about 
seven miles north of the proper zone. These sticks 
at least landed within the lOlst's prescribed 
perimeter, but another nine had been scattered 
from 4 to, 10 miles south of DZ D in the Carentan 
area on the far side of the Douve. One stick prob- 
ably went down with its plane, and four others 
carried by the serial are unaccounted for. 

Those troops who did come down near the zone 
were involved in fighting from the start. The bat- 
talion^ commander was killed and his executive 
officer was captured. None of the company com- 
manders were on hand. Through a fortunate acci- 
dent the regimental commander, Colonel Johnson, 
was present to take charge. His pilot had given 
the green light a little too soon, but a bundle stuck 
in the door had delayed the jump until the plane 
was exactly over the zone. 

Johnson gathered men from various units until 
he had about 150, and worked his way toward la 
Barquette. At dawn his men rushed the lock, 
found it undefended, and were dug in before enemy 
sentries on the other bank realized they were 
there. The German guards, few in numbers, made 
no attempt to counterattack, but as a result of 
their observations German artillery soon began 
shelling the lock area. Once established at the 
lock, Johnson sent patrols westward in hopes that 
the highway bridges could be taken with equal 
ease, but every advance in that direction was 
halted by intense fire. Clearly the bridges could 
not be taken without a hard fight. 

The colonel therefore returned to the drop 
zone with about 50 men to seek reinforcements. 
At 0900 outside Basse Addeville he found his S-3 
with about 100 miscellaneous troops already en- 
gaged with enemy forces north and west of them. 
Most of Johnson's regiment seemed to have van- 
ished, but he learned presently that half his 2d 
Battalion was fighting less than a mile to the north 
near the hamlet of les Droueries. This force twice 
tried to break through to him but was stopped both 
times by the enemy. In contrast to intelligence 
reports which had indicated that the only German 
unit in the area was a single platoon, the entire 

46 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Assault 

3d Battalion of the enemy's 1058th Regiment was 
there and was fighting tenaciously. 

No word was received from division or corps, 
but at noon an encouraging bulletin from the BBC 
led Colonel Johnson to attempt a second advance 
on the highway bridges by way of la Barquette. 
He left 50 men to hold Basse Addeville, and 
marched off about 1330 toward the lock. This 
movement drew heavy artillery and mortar fire 
from the south near Carentan and from the north- 
west near St. C6me-du-Mont. A naval fire-control 
officer who had dropped with the regiment made 
radio contact with the fleet, and accurate naval gun 
fire subdued the mortars around St. Come. Never- 
theless stiff resistance blocked every effort to push 
toward the bridges. All that could be done was to 
consolidate the postion around the lock. 

After receiving one of the best drops in either 
ALBANY or BOSTON the 2d Battalion of the 
50 1 st had a hard and seemingly fruitless day. At 
least 40 of its 45 sticks had come down on or 
within a mile of the drop zone, mainly near its 
southern edge.* The battalion commander, Lt. 
Col. Robert A. Ballard, was able to collect about 
250 men for an attack on St C6me-du-Mont, but 
unexpectedly strong and determined enemy forces 
threw back his attacks at the hamlet of les 
Droueries, half a mile from St. Come. They also 
blocked his subsequent attempts to join forces 
with Colonel Johnson. Even after the control offi- 
cer with Johnson had called down naval gunfire 
on the hostile positions Ballard's men were unable 
to make much headway. On the other hand, by 
keeping the Germans around St. Come on the 
defensive, his battalion may have prevented a 
counterattack against the exposed positions of 
the paratroops at la Barquette. 

The 3d Battalion, 506th PIR, had been given a 
good drop by the 440th Group. About eight of 
its sticks landed on the zone and 26 more within 
a mile of it, the principal concentration being 
near the eastern end. Only two sticks, dropped 
some 13 miles to the south are known to have 
landed far from their goal. 

Unfortunately the Germans were ready and 
waiting and had converted the drop area into a 
deathtrap. The moment the jump began an oil- 
soaked building burst into flame, and by its light 
machine guns and mortars mowed down the para- 
troops before they could get clear of their chutes. 

*One was Wz and another VA miles away. 

Both the battalion commander and his executive 
were among the slain. The survivors had all they 
could do to assemble and maintain themselves. 

The battalion S-3, Capt. Charles G. Shettle, 
descended in slightly safer territory in the southern 
part of the zone. After only a momentary pause 
to assess the situation he hurried off toward the 
le Port bridges with only 15 men, leaving the rest 
of the battalion to follow if it could. This seem- 
ingly reckless haste paid high dividends, and was 
to exercise a considerable influence on paratroop 
tactics. Picking up another 18 men along the way, 
Shettle reached the bridges at 0430 and quickly 
occupied their western ends. After 20 more para- 
troops joined his group he sent patrols across to 
the far bank. However, German pressure forced 
them to withdraw two hours later largely for lack 
of ammunition. With only about 30 rounds apiece 
the paratroops had to husband their resources. 
Contact was made during the day with Johnson's 
force at the lock, but he was in no position to 
provide assistance. 

That night 40 more troops, said to have been' 
dropped near Carentan, managed to reach Shettle's 
position. At 0200 the Germans attempted to 
cross one of the bridges, but recoiled when the 
paratroops poured a volley into them at close 
range. Thereafter the enemy contented themselves 
with keeping Shettle's group under constant harass- 
ing fire from across the river. However, the 
Americans prepared the bridges for demolition in 
case of a more formidable attack. Thus at dawn 
on D plus 1 Shettle and Johnson held defensive 
positions at the lock and the two wooden bridges 
with the equivalent of less than two companies of 
troops almost without ammunition, food and 
water. Colonel Johnson put out panel signals at 
dawn for aerial resupply. Supplies were dropped 
at 0630, but they fell in the marshes or in areas 
exposed to German fire and could not be recovered. 

About noon Shettle sighted some P-47's and set 
out signal panels requesting a bombing mission 
against the enemy positions across the river. The 
mission arrived about 0430, but, through some 
misunderstanding, strafed the American position 
and destroyed both bridges by accurate skip 
bombing before frantic waving of orange identifi- 
cation panels led the fliers to shift their attacks to 
the other side of the Douve. 

What had been achieved was important. What 
had not been done could have been disastrous. 

The Assault 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 47 

The paratroops on DZ D had failed in their over- 
all objective, the sealing off of the southern flank 
of the UTAH beachhead. From Carentan to be- 
yond St. C6me-du-Mont the north-south highway 
and its bridges over the Douve remained in Ger- 
man hands. Through this gateway the Nazis could 
and did, launch a counterattack. 

At about 0600 on D-day the commander of the 
German 6th Parachute Regiment, stationed near 
Periers, southwest of Carentan, had received orders 
to attack northward toward Ste Mere Eglise. He 
moved his regiment to the vicinity of Carentan, 
reconnoitered the situation at St. Come, and about 
noon ordered two of his battalions to join him 
there. They crossed the river during the afternoon 
and struck northward from St. Come about 1900. 
With many skirmishes, but no major engagements, 
the first battalion reached the vicinity of Ste Marie- 
du-Mont before midnight. The second, somehow 
slipping behind American positions around les 
Forges, may have come within a mile of Ste Mere 
Eglise, which was its objective. 

The size of the American buildup had already 
been such that it would have taken two regiments 
of Germans rather than two battalions to create 
a threat to the UTAH operation. Nevertheless, by 
resolute action these thrusts could have caused 
enough trouble to delay VII Corps for many days. 
Actually they accomplished little. During the night 
the German regimental commander, gradually 
realizing the odds against his men, ordered them 
back. The second battalion got the order and 
returned safely to St. Come. The first battalion, 
which did not acknowledge the order, and may not 
have received it, retired southward next morning. 
Unable to make contact with its comrades, it 
marched without reconnoitering toward the. cross- 
ings at la Barquette and le Port in apparent ig- 
norance that the Americans held those points. 
About 1600 the battalion approached the river. 

It was disconcerting to the Americans to see 
such large forces advancing unexpectedly on their 
rear, but it was doubtless more so for the Germans 
to receive rifle and machine-gun fire from ambush 
at close range and to find their retreat suddenly 
cut off. In the ensuing battles some 800 German 
paratroops were defeated by about 250 American 
paratroops under Johnson and about 100 under 
Shettle. Shettle made adroit and aggressive use of 
patrols to convince the Germans in his sector that 
his force was too much for them. They trickled 

in squad by squad until he had 255 prisoners. In 
the lock area such disintegration was checked by 
Nazi officers who shot anyone who showed signs 
of surrender and wounded Colonel Johnson him- 
self, when he advanced to offer terms after hearing 
cries of "Kamerad." Later Johnson did succeed 
in conferring between the lines with a German 
enlisted man and sent him back with an ultimatum 
to surrender in 30 minutes or be "annihilated by 
our superior forces." Almost on the deadline the 
Germans began surrendering. This capitulation, 
also, was a piecemeal process with officers coming 
in last a little after nightfall. The force at the lock 
had inflicted about 150 casualties and taken 350 
prisoners at a cost of 10 men killed and 30 
wounded. It was an extraordinary victory for cour- 
age and bluff over a unit supposedly better than 
most the Germans then had in Normandy. 13 

While this success was being won, a relief col- 
umn was lighting its way south from the vicinity 
of DZ C. Late on D-day General Taylor, out of 
contact with his forces on the Douve front, had 
directed Colonel Sink to take the 506th PIR (less 
the 3d Battalion) on a reconnaissance in force 
through Vierville to the river. The 506th marched 
south on the morning of the 7th with more than 
600 men. They encountered stiff resistance after 
passing through Vierville, and only with the aid of 
two platoons of tanks, which proved invaluable in 
knocking out machine-gun nests, were they able to 
fight their way to the vicinity of Angoville, where 
Sink and one battalion managed to join forces 
with Colonel Ballard's group. Together they drove 
salients north and south of les Droueries but were 
unable to take the strongly defended positions 
around that hamlet. 

The attack by V Corps in the OMAHA Beach 
sector south of the Vire was not going well, and 
on the 7th General Bradley, on orders from Eisen- 
hower, gave VII Corps as its primary goal the 
taking of Carentan, since this was the one point 
essential to a link-up of the two corps. The best 
and shortest way to Carentan was blocked by two 
German battalions holding les Droueries and St. 
Come. In order to crush their resistance Colonel 
Sink was heavily reinforced. On the night of the 
7th he received the 3d Battalion, 501st PIR, a 
battalion of glider troops (brought in over the 
beaches), eight light tanks, and a battalion of field 
artillery with 105 mm. guns. 
At 0500 on the 8th Sink launched an attack by 


— Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Assault 

the four airborne battalions. This was preceded 
by artillery preparation and a rolling barrage 
ahead of the troops. After hard fighting the enemy 
withdrew during the afternoon, hammered back 
the 3d Battalion of the 501st, which had pushed 
into their path, and retreated across the Douve, 
blowing up one of the highway bridges and the 
railway bridge as they went. The 101st Division 
had accomplished its initial mission and had con- 
solidated its lines along the Douve. However, to 
do so against the opposition of two battalions had 
required two and a half days and the help of tanks 
and artillery brought in by sea. 

On the 9th the division paused to reorganize for 
its drive toward Carentan. This pause may be 
taken as the end of the airborne stage of its opera- 
tions. The subsequent attack by the 101st which 
made contact with V Corps on 10 June and took 
Carentan on 12 June was made as a ground unit 
striking out of an organized beachhead. 14 

BOSTON Mission and the 
Paratroop Operations of the 
82d Division 

The 8 2d Division's paratroop mission, BOS- 
TON, was flown by the 52d Wing and the attached 
442d Group from their bases around Grantham in 
the north of England. The serials were to assem- 
ble over their bases according to group SOP's, 
pass over the wing assembly point at six-minute 
intervals, and fly the course already taken by the 
pathfinders from there to HOBOKEN, PEORIA, 
and the drop zones.- Between the command assem- 
bly point and the IP the lead plane in BOSTON 
was to fly 10 minutes behind the leader of the last 
serial in ALBANY. 

The first plane took off about 2300, and by 
0002 all were in the air except one in the 315th 
Group which did not go because a paratrooper's 
grenade had exploded before take-off, making a 
shambles of the rear of the aircraft. The fastest 
departure appears to have been that of the 61st 
Group from Barkston Heath. Taking off in ele- 
ments of 3 at 7-second intervals, it put two 36- 
plane serials in the air in 2V2 minutes apiece. 

The weather was favorable. The moon shone 
brightly through high, scattered clouds and visi- 
bility was generally excellent. Under these condi- 
tions the Eureka beacons and flashing aerial light- 

houses at 30-mile intervals made it easy to stay on 
course, and the bright lights on the planes made it 
easy to keep formation during the trip to the south 
coast. One pilot said it seemed as though they 
were following a lighted highway. The marker 
ships proved equally efficacious, and, as in AL- 
BANY, all serials appear to have approached 
Normandy on course and in formation. 

The first three serials in BOSTON were to drop 
the 505th Parachute Regiment between 0151 and 
0208. The lead serial, 36 planes of the 316th 
Group, carried the 2d Battalion. Another 36 from 
that group took the 3d Battalion of the 505th, two 
75 mm. howitzers, and 20 artillerymen of the 
456th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion. Then 
came 47 planes of the 315th Group bearing the 
Headquarters and 1st Battalion of the 505th and 
a platoon of engineers. With them was General 
Ridgway, who had decided a few days earlier to 
parachute in rather than come, as previously 
planned, by glider. 

The destination of these serials, DZ O, was an 
oval about a mile long from west to east and half 
a mile wide from north to south extending from 
half a mile northwest of Ste Mere Eglise almost to 
the east bank of the Merderet. It was to be 
marked by Eureka beacons and green T's. From 
a pilot's viewpoint it was conveniently boxed in on 
the west by the Merderet, on the south by a road 
running west from Ste Mere Eglise, and on the 
east by the north-south highway. 

All three serials carrying the 505th apparently 
sighted the cloudbank over the western Cotentin 
soon enough for most of the planes to climb over 
it without losing formation. The clouds shielded 
them from observation, and by following a differ- 
ent route from ALBANY they achieved a degree 
of surprise. All three crossed the coast without 
opposition and even the last was four miles inland 
before it was fired upon. Such fire as was en- 
countered was sporadic and ineffectual and was 
mostly from rifles and machine guns. No planes 
were lost. The 316th had a dozen slightly dam- 
aged, and 11 in the 315th required minor repairs. 
One flak burst which wounded seven paratroops 
aboard a plane of the 315th prevented that stick 
from jumping. However, the clouds above the 
zone were more of a hindrance than the enemy. 

The pathfinder troops on DZ O had put their 
Eureka in operation by 0125. The first serial re- 
ceived its responses clearly when 15 miles away, 

Map 5. 

50 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Assault 

and the third did so at distances up to 21 miles. 
The pathfinders also had three T's of green lights 
gleaming on the zone, one for each battalion, but 
not until it was almost on top of the lights did 
the lead serial see them through a break in the 
clouds. In consequence it made a high drop from 
about 1,000 feet. Some pilots overshot and drop- 
ped troops east of the zone. Others who overshot 
or straggled off course made another pass. The 
second serial had begun a descent through the 
clouds on Rebecca before reaching the DZ and 
dropped on the T. The 315th Group's serial had 
to change its course and lose altitude rapidly after 
it sighted the T but was able to drop over the zone 
from about the proper height. At least one of its 
pilots missed the zone in the overcast, turned back 
at the coast and dropped at what he believed to be 
the alternate zone, DZ D. Although accounts dif- 
fer, the first drops were probably made about 0145 
and the last about 0204. As in so many other cases 
the arrival had been slightly ahead of schedule. 

Of 1,276 troops aboard planes of the 316th 
Group, all but two jumped, and all but 28 out of 
844 carried by the 315th did so. Of those brought 
back, 7 paratroopers had been wounded by a flak 
burst on one plane of the 315th, and 4 had refused 
to jump. 15 

The drops at DZ O were, taken together, the 
best at any zone by IX TCC in NEPTUNE. Half 
the troops dropped were assembled and ready for 
action within eight hours. Among the factors 
contributing to this were the success of the 316th 
and 315th Groups in climbing over the cloudbank 
and descending to the DZ without losing forma- 
tion, the absence of intense enemy fire during the 
approach and over the zone, and the lighted T. 
This last was an aid not available on the other 
zones, except at DZ A where the lights went on 
too late for the first serials. Its presence at O 
appears to have been important, since after seeing 
it two of the serials had to make hasty changes in 
course and altitude in order to drop correctly. 

Of 118 sticks delivered in Normandy and in- 
tended for DZ O, 31 landed on or barely outside 
the zone, approximately 29 more came within a 
mile, and at least an additional 20 were within 
two miles of it. Some 17 were scattered within or 
just outside a 5-mile radius. Only three sticks, 
dropped 14 miles north of the zone, were certainly 
outside the objective area, but several were missing 
or unreported. 16 

The 505th Regiment was responsible for an 
area extending westward from the 101st Division 
sector at Beuzeville-au-Plain to the Merderet and 
from les Forges, initially a 101st Division responsi- 
bility, northward to include Neuville-au-Plain. In 
the center of this area was Ste Mere Eglise, next to 
the causeways the most important objective of the 
airborne troops. In American hands it would be 
the hub of communications within the beachhead. 
Without it the line of the Merderet would scarcely 
be tenable, and units on the west bank of that 
river would probably be cut off. 

The 2d Battalion of the 505th was to hold the 
northern perimeter from Beuzeville to the river. 
The 3d Battalion was to take Ste Mere Eglise. The 
1st Battalion was to send one company to seize 
the Merderet crossings at la Fiere, 2 miles west of 
Ste Mere, and at Chef-du-Pont, which was about 
2 miles west of les Forges. The rest of the bat- 
talion was to be in reserve. 

Almost no initial opposition was met on DZ O, 
so the well-concentrated troops were able to as- 
semble quickly. By 0820 32 officers and 303 men 
of the 2d Battalion were organized and ready for 
action. The battalion commander, Lt. Col. Benja- 
min H. Vandervoort, had broken his leg in the 
drop but continued in charge of his unit. Soon 
after dawn he gave orders to set out northward 
toward Neuville-au-Plain, but the movement was 
halted by the regimental commander, who had not 
heard from the 3d Battalion and was worried about 
the situation in Ste Mere Eglise. After three hours 
of uncertainty Vandervoort's men were ordered to 
advance into that town. Arriving shortly before 
1000 they found the 3d Battalion already in full 
control of Ste Mere Eglise, but hard pressed by 
counterattacks from the south. 

The 3d Battalion had also received a good drop. 
Lt. Col. Edward C. Krause, the battalion com- 
mander, after descending, exactly as planned, be- 
side his unit's assembly point on the south side of 
DZ O, had organized a system of search parties 
which within 45 minutes gathered in 180 men 
from his own battalion plus some from other units. 
They were just starting for Ste Mere Eglise when 
they met a Frenchman who told them that most of 
the German garrison had been moved to positions 
outside the town for fear of Allied bombing, and 
that he could lead them in safely by a back road. 
He was as good as his word. Moving silently and 
swiftly, with strict orders from Krause not to use 

The Assault 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 51 

firearms, the battalion stole into Ste Mere Eglise 
and before dawn had occupied all key points and 
manned a ring of roadblocks around it. Krause 
himself cut the Cherbourg-Carentan cable. The 
garrison, mostly antiaircraft artillerymen, had 
been so surprised that their resistance was negligi- 
ble. About 30 of the enemy were taken prisoner, 
including some captured in bed; 10 were killed; 
and the rest fled southward. A runner with news 
of this success reached General Ridgway, but, in 
the excitement, failed to report to the regimental 

Krause had instructed his troops to follow him 
to Ste Mere if they missed him on the drop zone, 
and by 0900 enough had joined him to bring his 
strength to over 300 men. He needed every one of 
them, for at 0930 the Germans attacked from the 
south with about two companies of infantry sup- 
ported by guns and tanks. The situation was eased 
by the arrival of Vandervoort's battalion. It took 
over the northern and eastern sides of town, while 
Krause's men concentrated on the south. 

By 1130 the attackers had been stopped, and 
Krause ordered 80 men to strike at their western 
flank. This show of strength, intimidated the 
enemy into making a substantial withdrawal. They 
made no further attacks until dusk when they ad- 
vanced again after a preliminary shelling. The 
505th turned them back easily and classed the 
fight as hardly more than a strong patrol action. 
The enemy forces involved were the 795th Geor- 
gian Battalion, 91st Division, and some other ele- 
ments of that division. The paratroopers task was 
eased by the fact that the Georgians were not 
eager to fight and their German officers, cut off 
from higher headquarters, were uneasy and hesitant. 

Not until late on D-day did the Germans exert 
much pressure on the northern perimeter of Ste 
Mere Eglise. In the morning about two companies 
of the 1058th Grenadier Regiment had attempted 
an attack down the north-south highway, but they 
had been held up from 1030 to about 1700 by the 
heroic action of a single platoon which Vander^ 
voort had sent that morning to serve as outpost 
at Neuville. Only 16 out of 44 men in the platoon 
got back, but their stand had cost the Germans 
time which they could ill afford to lose. 

The last drop on DZ O, that of Headquarters 
and the 1st Battalion of the 505th PIR by the 
315th Group was on a par with those by the first 
two serials. By 0600 the regimental CP was in 

operation in an orchard 1,200 yards west of Ste 
Mere Eglise, and with it was the divisional CP, 
established by General Ridgway, who had been 
given a most accurate drop by Capt. Chester A. 
Baucke of the 52d Wing. By 0930 the 1st Bat- 
talion had assembled 22 officers and 338 men, and 
by then or a little later regimental headquarters 
had mustered 12 officers and 61 men. 

Two hours after the drop Company A, which 
then numbered 11 officers and 132 men, was dis- 
patched to take the crossing at la Fiere. At day- 
break as it was approaching its objective it met 
large bodies of troops from the 507th and 508th 
Regiments. Together they attempted to reach the 
bridge but were held short of it throughout the 
morning by machine-gun fire from a small detach- 
ment which the Germans were said to have put 
there for the first time a day or two before. Early 
-in the afternoon contingents of the other regiments 
rushed the bridge but the attack failed, and as a 
result Company A, which had remained on the 
east bank in a support role, was left almost alone 
to face an impending counterattack. The rest of 
the 1st Battalion of the 505th was hastily called 
to la Fiere to meet this threat. 

The Germans hammered the battalion for the 
rest of the day with mortars and artillery and 
attacked twice across the bridge using infantry of 
the 1057th Grenadier Regiment and light tanks of 
the 100th Panzer Replacement Battalion. Both at- 
tacks were repulsed but, in the first two, tanks got 
almost across the causeway before being knocked 
out by bazookas. The second attack crossed the 
river, overran the 1st Battalion CP and forced the 
battalion to drop back temporarily. Needless to 
say, the 505th had been unable to spare any men 
for its mission to Chef-du-Pont. Instead, about 
1500 hours, some 200 men of the 507th and 508th 
Regiments who had been attempting to take the 
crossing there had to be rushed north to la Fiere 
to assist the 505th, leaving only a platoon at Chef- 
du-Pont. With their help the Germans at la Fiere 
were pushed back west of the river. 

Thanks to the good drop they had received, 
more than three quarters of the troops in the 505th 
PIR had reported to their units by nightfall on 
D-day. They were needed, for casualties had been 
heavy, and no relief was in sight. The troops at 
Ste Mere Eglise had 44 dead, 130 wounded in 
hospital, and many wounded still fighting, includ- 
ing Colonels Krause and Vandervoort. At la Fiere 

52 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Assault 

the 1st Battalion had 20 dead and over 150 other 
casualties. For artillery the 505th had only one of 
the two howitzers dropped in BOSTON* and 6 
out of 16 antitank guns brought in DETROIT, 
the predawn glider mission. Ammunition of all 
types was running very low. However, the rank 
and file of the 505th, battle-hardened in Mediter- 
ranean campaigns, felt themselves equal to the 
situation. "We're staying right here," they told the 
French that night. 

The commanders of the paratroops were more 
worried than their men. Radio contact with head- 
quarters in England had not been established, al- 
though one large radio was available, and attempts 
were made to use it. More serious was the inabil- 
ity of the 82d to get in touch with VII Corps, 4th 
Division or even the 101st until late on D-day. 
The first radio contact was made with 4th Division 
about 2100. About the same time a patrol of the 
505th PIR met one from the 4th Division near 
Beuzeville, but it brought back little information. 
Not until the morning of the 7th when a staff offi- 
cer of the 8 2d who had gotten through to the 4th 
Division CP returned from a midnight conference 
there did Ridgway know that his east flank was 
secure and that help was coming. 

Equally welcome was the news that the enemy 
south of the 505th was no longer a serious threat. 
On the afternoon of D-day the 8th Infantry Regi- 
ment, whose progress from UTAH Beach through 
the 101st Division sector has already been de- 
scribed, t had pushed one of its battalions to the 
vicinity of Turqueville IV2 miles southeast of Ste 
Mere Eglise and its other two battalions beyond 
les Forges, one company almost reaching Chef- 
du-Pont. The advance penned the 795th Georgian 
Battalion and other enemy troops on a strip of high 
ground stretching about two miles southwest from 
Turqueville across the north-south highway. 
Others, separated from the rest by the 8th Infantry 
salient, held out further south at Carquebut. 

The 8th Infantry preferred to consolidate its 
gains rather than risk further action that day, and 
a seaborne detachment of 93 men of the 325th 
Glider Infantry, reinforced by a cavalry reconnais- 
sance platoon and a company of light tanks, which 
had been detailed to clear the les Forges area for 
glider landings, proved too weak to make much 

*The breechblock of the other landed on ground swept by 
enemy fire and was not recovered. 
tSee above, pp. 41-42. 

headway. Thus the encircled enemy west of 
Turqueville was able to play hob with the glider 

On the morning of D plus 1 the 8th Infantry 
and the detachment from the 8 2d Division at- 
tacked the Turqueville wedge. At Turqueville 
most of the German officers pulled out as the 
attack started, and over 150 Slavic and Asiatic 
conscripts were then talked into surrender by 
American prisoners. f At other points resistance 
was stiff, but by 1030 the wedge had been wiped 
out. A battalion of the 325th Glider Infantry, 
which had landed near les Forges early in the 
morning, was sent about noon to deal with the 
Germans at Carquebut. It found the place de- 
serted. The enemy had fled. However, they rein- 
filtrated later and had to be driven out again next 

North of Ste Mere Eglise the Germans were 
able to launch a formidable attack on 7 lune, 
employing the 1058th Grenadiers, reinforced by 
the Seventh Army Sturm Battalion, approximately 
three battalions of artillery, and some tanks . or 
self-propelled guns. This action created such con- 
cern that the commander of VII Corps detached 
a reinforced tank company from 4th Division re- 
serve to protect the 8 2d Division from attacks by 
enemy tanks. This force engaged an enemy column 
just north of Ste Mere Eglise, then swung north- 
east around its flank toward Neuville-au-Plain, 
causing the Germans to withdraw their guns and 
vehicles hastily for fear of being cut off. German 
infantry remained ensconced in ditches and hedges 
northwest of town until in mid-afternoon the 2d 
Battalion of the 505th and the 2d Battalion, 8th 
Infantry, which had moved up to Ste Mere Eglise, 
launched a coordinated attack supported by tanks. 
They outflanked the Germans and defeated them, 
inflicting heavy casualties. 17 

Thus by the end of D plus 1 the 505th PIR was 
part of a solid beachhead extending inland to the 
Merderet. All regimental objectives east of the 
river had been taken except Neuville-au-Plain, 
which fell next day, and troops from the beaches 
were moving up to take over most of its northern 
front. Behind it in divisional reserve were over 
1,700 officers and men of the 325th Glider Infan- 
try Regiment, brought in that morning by gliders 

*See below, p. 67. 

tCapt. William J. Adams, a captured glider pilot, was later 
awarded the Silver Star for his part in persuading them to give 

The Assault 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 53 

in GALVESTON and HACKENSACK missions. 
Divisional artillery was still weak. Only 6 out of 
13 antitank guns and 3 out of 24 howitzers 
brought by the ELMIRA glider mission on the 
evening of D-day went into action on D plus 1. 
However, adequate ammunition supplies had been 
retrieved from the gliders, and next day 1 1 more 
of the glider-borne howitzers were hauled to the 
505th's sector and began firing. Meanwhile, be- 
yond the Merderet things had not gone so well. 
Not only had the 507th and 508th Regiments 
failed to achieve their objectives, but large por- 
tions of them were in danger of destruction. 

The 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment and a 
detachment of divisional headquarters had been 
carried by serials of 36 and 24 aircraft from the 
314th Troop Carrier Group and by two serials of 
36 planes each from the 313th Group. The lead 
serial was scheduled to make its drop at 0208. 
The regimental mission was to hold the southern 
half of the bridgehead which the 508th and the 
507th were supposed to establish beyond the 
Merderet. The sector assigned to the 508th was a 
rough quadrangle extending about three miles west 
of the Merderet and about two miles north from 
the Douve. The bridge over the Merderet at la 
Fiere was just outside the northern edge of this 

All four serials were to drop on DZ N, a rela- 
tively small zone, about a mile long on the axis of 
approach and half a mile wide from north to south. 
It lay 1 Vi miles west of the Merderet and almost 
two miles north of the Douve in flat country 
checkered with hedgerows. Touching its southern 
edge was a highway running southwest from la 
Fiere to Pont l'Abbe, a town on the Douve about 
IV2 miles southwest of the zone. About a mile 
south of DZ N was the hamlet of Picauville. Un- 
known to the Allies, the German 91st Division 
had recently established its headquarters a little 
way north of Picauville and had stationed consid- 
erable forces in that area. 

Less fortunate than the serials going to DZ >0, 
those intended for DZ N had run headlong into 
the cloudbank a moment after crossing the coast 
at PEORIA. Most of the 314th Group apparently 
stayed in the clouds until within three miles of the 
zone. Near the DZ they met with some flak and 
much machine-gun fire, but, thanks to the protect- 
ing clouds, only 1 8 aircraft were damaged, almost 
all lightly. However, one plane was shot down 

over the zone after making three passes to drop 
its troops. The jumpmaster had called the first 
pass too low, and flak had spoiled the second. 
The crew survived and reached the Allied lines 
that night. The pilot of another plane was killed 
on his second pass, but the co-pilot completed the 

The 313th Group was harder hit than its pre- 
decessor, mostly by accurate small-arms fire. One 
plane crashed in flames after making its drop. 
Another, burning and with damaged engines, 
ditched on the way back. A third was missing. 
The group brought back 21 planes with slight 
damage, 11 needing moderate repairs, and one 
badly damaged. 

Flying blind until almost at the DZ and harassed 
by enemy fire as they emerged from the clouds, 
these four serials were peculiarly in need of path- 
finder assistance. They got very little. The path- 
finder troops had landed more than a mile south- 
east of DZ N and found enemy forces blocking 
their way to the zone. In this dangerous situation 
all they could do was to operate a Eureka and 
two amber lights. They reported later that the 
Eureka was on in ample time and was "triggered" 
by Rebecca signals at 0156 when the first planes of 
the 314th were still over 12 miles away. However, 
only the first serial of the 313th Group reported 
receiving usable signals from the Rebecca. Some 
members of other formations picked it up but had 
poor reception, possibly due to jamming. A few 
pilots did see the amber lights and used them as a 
guide. Although the pathfinders turned on their 
BUPS beacon, there is no evidence that any of the 
few navigators who had SCR-717 made use of it 
in selecting their drop point. 

The leaders of both serials of the 314th and the 
rear serial of the 313th Group relied on Gee to 
establish their position and obtained fairly good 
results. The most successful was Lt. Col. Clayton 
Styles, commander of the 3 14th Group, who placed 
his stick in good position on the south side of the 
zone. In the stick was Lt. Col. Thomas J. B. 
Shanley, commander of the 508th's 2d Battalion, 
an officer destined to play an important part in 
the coming battle. The leader of the second serial 
made his drop about two miles north of DZ N. 
The leader of the third, using Rebecca-Eureka 
gave the jump signal in the vicinity of the path- 
finders. The fourth leader made a fairly accurate 
drop on Gee. Thus, if the serials had held to- 

54 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Assault 

gether, about half the paratroops intended for DZ 
N would have come down on or close to it and 
almost all would have been within two miles of it. 
In fact all four serials had disintegrated leaving 
only a small minority in formation behind the 

Of 2,188 paratroops slated for DZ N, 2,183 
had been dropped. Two had refused to jump, two 
had fouled chutes and one was wounded. Over 95 
percent of the 63 tons of supplies and equipment 
carried had been delivered, but a large part of 
the men and materiel landed far away from the 
drop zone. About 17 out of 132 sticks did land on 
or very near to DZ N, and another 16 were within 
a mile of it. Most of the latter were located be- 
yond the zone, indicating that the pilots had been 
a little slow in recognizing their position. Perhaps 
they had seen parachutes beneath them or the 
Merderet ahead. Some 30 additional planeloads 
came,, down within a two-mile radius of the zone. 
Half of these were in the general vicinity of the 
pathfinders. The pathfinder beacons were near the 
Douve, and several sticks fell into the river. No 
less than 34 pilots went past DZ N, crossed the 
Merderet, and dropped their loads between DZ O 
and the coast. At least three of these set their 
drops by the green T on DZ O, 9 put their sticks 
near Ste Mere Eglise, and 10 dropped near St. 
Martin-de-Varreville, which was six miles east of 
DZ N. Most of the troops dropped east of the 
river fought on D-day with the 505th PIR or the 
101st Division, then assembled on the 7th, and 
reported to their regimental commander, on the 
east side of the Merderet near DZ O. A number 
of jumps were made prematurely with the result 
that eight sticks descended between three and five 
miles short of DZ N. Through gross errors two 
sticks were dropped near Valognes, nine miles 
north of DZ N and five were dropped about 15 
miles north of the zone. The directional error in 
those cases is so great that it seems as though the 
pilots must either have gone off course before 
reaching PEORIA or circled for a second run and 
lost their bearings completely. Approximately 20 
sticks went unaccounted for. 

Broadly speaking, then, about a quarter of the 
508th Parachute Regiment was dropped within a 
mile of its zone; one quarter was within two miles 
of it; another quarter was unable to perform its 
assigned mission because it had been flown past 
DZ N and dropped on the wrong side of the 

Merderet, and most of the remainder was ineffec- 
tive because of dispersed drops in remote or 
dangerous places. 18 

The regimental commander, Col. Roy Lindquist, 
and the divisional paratroop commander, Brig. 
Gen. James M. Gavin, were dropped by the 
second serial of the 314th Group, came down 
about two miles north of DZ N within the territory 
of the 507th PIR, and joined forces with elements 
of that regiment. Their activities, can best be dis- 
cussed later in connection with the 507th. The 
only important operations on D-day west of the 
Merderet by members of the 508th were con- 
ducted by a group which coalesced gradually 
around Lieutenant Colonel Shanley on the south 
side of the drop zone. 

After his jump Shanley had quickly collected 30 
men by hanging bundle lights in a tree, and then 
had sent out patrols for more. The next morning he 
made radio contact with two other groups of 
platoon size or less. It is a striking fact that 
although both were within a mile of him, neither 
was able to join him until the middle of the after- 
noon. They had had to feel their way cautiously 
through a maze of thick, high, almost impenetrable 
hedges, stopping at intervals to skirmish with 
enemy patrols. The hedges were both an impedi- 
ment and a shield. The German 91st Division had 
a battalion of the 1057th Grenadier Regiment in 
that area and other units nearby with artillery and 
tanks, enough to have treated the scattered bands 
of paratroops very roughly in open country. As 
it was, the Nazis' movements were blind and 

Shanley's battalion had had the mission of mov- 
ing south to destroy the highway bridge across the 
Douve at Pont l'Abbe and defend the north bank 
of that river from Pont l'Abbe to the Mederet, but 
after finding his way to the Douve blocked by 
superior forces Shanley decided to take defensive 
positions on Hill 30, a partially wooded rise about 
a mile to the east of him. The hill overlooked the 
Merderet half way between the la Fiere bridge and 
that at Chef-du-Pont. It took him from late after- 
noon until almost midnight to cover that one mile. 
Near the hill he picked up a body of about 200 
leaderless and bewildered paratroops. Had those 
troops attacked the bridge at Chef-du-Pont earlier 
in the day they could probably have taken it and 
saved the division much trouble. In the interim 
the Germans had manned the approaches to the 

The Assault 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 55 

crossing, but they had not yet occupied the hill. 
Shanley beat them to that. There for the next three 
days he and his men acted as a kind of shock 
absorber on which the Germans expended much 
of their striking power. Shanley had radio contact 
with divisional headquarters, and was able to get 
some artillery support. Aside from that his group 
held out unassisted. 10 

The last phase of the BOSTON paratroop mis- 
sion was to be the dropping of the 507th Para- 
chute Regiment on DZ T beginning at 0232. The 
regiment was carried by two serials of 36 planes 
each from the 61st Troop Carrier Group and one 
of 45 aircraft from the 442d Group. Five miles 
before reaching the zone these serials would cross 
the upper Douve at a point where it was spanned 
by a long causeway. After that there were no 
distinctive landmarks short of the Merderet, which 
flowed just beyond the east end of the DZ, much 
too close as it turned out. The zone itself was an 
oval about 1 l A miles long on the axis of approach 
and half a mile wide, lying on flat alluvial ground 
1 Vt. miles north of DZ N, and about the same dis- 
tance northwest of the la Fiere bridge. A thousand 
yards northeast of the DZ loomed the embankment 
of the Valognes-Carentan railway slanting south- 
eastward across the Merderet to la Fiere. 

The 61st Group had some trouble with the 
clouds, but most of its lead serial held together. 
The Group suffered little from ground fire. One 
pilot whose plane was hit within sight of the zone 
dropped his troops but crashed later. He and his 
crew bailed out safely. Only six other aircraft of 
those two serials were hit, and none seriously. 
The 442d Group had a harder time. Its formation 
ran into the overcast and dispersed. It was also 
the target of more fire, principally medium to in- 
tense light flak and small-arms fire near the drop 
zone. One plane was hit over western Normandy 
and had. to crash-land after first dropping its troops 
many miles short of their goal. Another was miss- 
ing with all aboard. One with both engines dead 
was ditched successfully on the way home. Among 
those returning were 28 with slight and 3 with 
medium damage. 

The pathfinders on DZ T had scored a bulls-eye 
on their zone, but they found enemy units so near 
them that they dared not use their lights. They did 
turn on their Eureka at 0212 and received Rebecca 
signals at 0217. The incoming serials received the 
responses very well, and relied on Rebecca in 

making their drop. The leader of the 442d Group 
also picked up the responses of the Eureka south 
of DZ N. Checking it by Gee, he recognized that 
its location was wrong and also noted the differ- 
ence in coding. However, about half of his forma- 
tion were straggling, and there is reason to believe 
that some of them did drop troops on the wrong 
beacon. The first plane of the 61st Group made its 
drop at 0226 and the last at 0245 or later. The 
main body of the 442d dropped its troops between 
0239 and 0242. Of 1,187 troops carried by the 
61st Group all but one man, who refused to jump, 
were deposited in Normandy. Of 750 carried by 
the 442d Group, all jumped with the possible ex- 
ception of the one stick aboard a missing plane. 

On the whole the drop was better than that of 
the 508th Regiment. Two or three sticks landed 
on the zone, and about 50 more came within a 
mile of it. Unfortunately many pilots had over- 
shot, by between 1,000 and 1,500 yards, causing 
their troops to land in the swampy backwaters of 
the Merderet. The water was shallow at most 
points and few men were drowned, but the rest, 
floundering in the water with most of their equip- 
ment at the bottom of the river were in sorry state 
to start a battle. 

Another 22 sticks came down within approxi- 
mately two miles of DZ T. The rest, with one odd 
exception, were scattered. About 16 landed be- 
tween 2 and 5 miles from the zone, 1 1 more within 
a 10-mile radius of it, one 13 miles to the north, 
and one 25 miles to the south. The only concen- 
trated drop away from the zone was made by 10 
pilots in the second serial of the 61st Group who 
wandered to the vicinity of Montmartin-en- 
Graignes, 18 miles southeast of DZ T, and drop- 
ped about 160 paratroops of the 3d Battalion of 
the 507th Regiment there. This was the worst 
error by a formation of such size in either AL- 
BANY or BOSTON. Once again the most plaus- 
ible explanation is that after some mix-up in the 
clouds the pilots had fallen in behind a straggler 
who was not using radar. That they followed their 
false leader unquestioningly on such a wild-goose 
chase may be considered a triumph of discipline 
over common sense. 20 

The most impressive feature of the return from 
BOSTON Mission was the splendid formation in 
which the first serial of the 316th Group reached 
Cottesmore at 0400. This achievement, unique in 
NEPTUNE, indicates that the serial had at no 

56 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Assault 

time been badly scattered. On the other hand, the 
313th and 314th Groups returned singly or in 
driblets. Also some elements of the 61st Group 
left their corridor and cut straight across from 
Normandy to Portland Bill. The last stragglers to 
reach British soil did so about 0540. Their arrival 
ended the troop carriers' role in the paratroop 

The 507th Parachute Regiment was supposed 
to hold the northern half of the 82d Division's 
bridgehead over the Merderet. It was to defend a 
perimeter curving from the northwest corner of 
the 508th's territory to a point on the Merderet 
two miles north of la Fiere, One battalion was to 
take the western approaches to the la Fiere bridge. 
By a curious combination of circumstances much 
more than a battalion gathered at that crossing, 
but on the wrong side, the eastern shore of the 

Elements of G Company of the 507th under 
Capt. F. V. Schwartzwalder came down on the 
east side of the Merderet north of the bridge, 
moved toward it, and at dawn joined with A Com- 
pany of the 505th PIR in a fight against Germans 
in houses near the bridge. Later they were joined 
by most of the forty-odd sticks of the 507th and 
508th which had dropped into the marshes of the 
Merderet east of DZ T. Many of those troops had 
headed straight for the railway embankment which 
was the nearest and most obvious dry ground and 
had moved southeast along the embankment and 
across the river to la Fiere. Others had tried to 
move down the west bank of the river, were halted 
by enemy forces of superior strength, and likewise 
decided on the embankment as the best way to the 
bridge. First came 130 men under Lindquist, then 
more than 100 under Gavin, then about 150 col- 
lected by Lt. Col. Arthur Maloney and Lt. Col. 
Edwin J. Ostberg of the 507th. Others followed in 
smaller groups. By midmorning about 600 para- 
troops were massed near la Fiere. 

Since this force seemed more than sufficient to 
take the bridge, Gavin sent 75 paratroops under 
Maloney to reconnoiter southward and later, on 
hearing that Chef-du-Pont was undefended, set 
out with Colonel Ostberg and 75 men to take the 
bridge there. The east end of the Chef-du-Pont 
crossing was readily secured, but a few stubborn 
Germans with some very effective artillery assist- 
ance barred the bridge, even though during the 

afternoon Ostberg and Maloney employed nearly 
250 troops in attempts to cross. 

Meanwhile, Colonel Lindquist, left in command 
at la Fiere, prepared to force a crossing at that 
point. One company did not get the order, but 
the rest cleared the east end of the bridge, and 
Schwartzwalder dashed across with about 80 men. 
On the far side they met a patrol sent out by Lt. 
Col. Charles J. Timmes, commander of the 2d 
Battalion of the 507th. He had assembled about 
50 of his men east of Amfreville near their pre- 
scribed zone. Most unfortunately, Captain 
Schwartzwalder, instead of consolidating his 
bridgehead, decided that he ought to join Timmes, 
and did so, leaving only a dozen men behind at 
the bridge. Before adequate reinforcements could 
join them, the Germans counterattacked with tank 
and artillery support, retook the west end of the 
bridge and soon established themselves there in 

In this manner the 8 2d Division lost its bridge- 
head west of the Merderet and the paratroops on 
that side of the river were cut off. Some 300 of 
them were with Shanley and 120 with Timmes 
and Schwartzwalder. A larger group gradually 
concentrated around Col. George V. Millett, Jr., 
the commander of the 507th PIR. On D-day about 
75 men assembled with him near the west end of 
DZ T. As more converged on that area his force 
grew until finally he had about 400 men under his 

Though relatively strong in numbers, Millett's 
group was without artillery and almost without 
ammunition. Pinned down among the hedgerows 
it was unable even to reach Timmes, who was less 
than a mile away. The Germans, gradually realiz- 
ing Millett's weakness, pressed him harder and 
harder, until on the 8th he sent out a series of radio 
messages declaring that the situation was very 
critical and that he could hardly hold out another 
day unaided. Timmes' position, too, was highly pre- 
carious, and Shanley, though resisting staunchly, 
was nearing the end of his resources. The propect 
of the paratroops west of the Merderet looked dark 

Certainly part of the responsibility of this situa- 
tion must rest on the troop carriers. Only about a 
third of the 507th and 508th PIR's had landed in 
their assigned operational area. At full strength 
they would have been more than a match for their 
principal opponent, the 1057th Grenadier Regi- 

The Assault 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 57 

ment. Instead, they were outnumbered, scattered, 
and handicapped by the loss of much of their 
equipment. Whether the movement of several 
hundred paratroops along the embankment to the 
east side of the river was an inevitable result of 
the inaccurate drop may be doubted. Nor were 
the results of that move necessarily bad. Since the 
initial German garrisons at the la Fiere and 
Chef-du-Pont bridges were very small, the former 
might conceivably have been taken before 
dawn by Schwartzwalder's men and the latter by 
the paratroops dropped near Hill 30. In that case 
Company A of the 505th PIR, reinforced by the 
troops which arrived later from the embankment, 
would probably have sufficed to defend them. Even 
as it was, a foothold on the west bank was won by 
Captain Schwartzwalder and with better coordina- 
tion might have been held. Although such a 
bridgehead could not have been exploited immedi- 
ately, it would have spared the 8 2d Division the 
necessity for a bloody assault later to secure a 
crossing and would thereby have speeded both the 
relief of the encircled paratroops and the Allied 
advance across Normandy. 

For two days after the D-day battles the situa- 
tion along the Merderet remained practically un- 
changed. On 7 June the Germans made fierce but 
unsuccessful attacks at la Fiere. Both sides spent 
the 8th in reorganizing and skirmishing. On the 
evening of the 8th Ridgway decided to strike 
across the river and rescue his encircled men. He 
had available about 850 men of the 508th PIR and 
perhaps 500 of the 507th, but they were tired, and 
short of equipment. He therefore picked for his 
assault fresh troops of the 325th Glider Infantry 
Regiment, which had arrived by glider on D plus 1 . 

The 1st Battalion of the 325th crossed the 
Merderet via the embankment about midnight on 
8/9 June, waded along a submerged road through 
the marshes, turned south after reaching dry 
ground and attacked toward the la Fiere bridge, 
picking up Timmes' force on the way. Half a 
mile from the bridge they ran into strong opposi- 
tion and fell back. Millett's group, which had been 
directed to fight its way east and join Timmes, 
attempted to do so but broke up in confused fight- 
ing north of Amfreville. Millett himself was miss- 
ing in action, and half his men were captured or 
killed. The rest filtered north around the flank of 
the German positions and ultimately reached the 

east side of the river, presumably by way of the 

The 3d Battalion of the 325th had been held in 
reserve.* On learning that the flank attack had 
been stopped, General Gavin ordered the battalion 
to rush the la Fiere bridge. With the enemy pres- 
ent in strength this was a difficult and hazardous 
business, since, though the bridge itself was short, 
it was approached at either end by a long, narrow 
causeway completely exposed throughout its 
length. The attack jumped off at 1045 on the 9th 
after a 15-minute artillery preparation by a few 
howitzers and medium tanks. The first rush car- 
ried most of a company across, although bullets 
were beating on the bridge like hail. Then some 
men faltered and a jam developed; a tank sent to 
hearten the infantry struck a mine and slewed 
sideways across the causeway; and heavy-weapons 
men, unable to get through set up machine guns 
on the road, increasing the congestion. After an 
hour of strenuous efforts in which Ridgway per- 
sonally participated, the causeway was made pass- 
able, and the rest of the 3d Battalion of the 325th 
crossed in spasmodic rushes together with a com- 
pany of the 507th PIR, which had been thrown in 
to assist them. About noon the heavy weapons 
platoon and three Sherman tanks got across to 
provide the infantry with very welcome fire sup- 
port, and the 3d Battalion of the 508th PIR was 
committed to take over the southern flank of the 

Throughout the afternoon the Americans, 
greatly hampered by lack of communications, not 
only with their artillery, tanks and higher head- 
quarters, but even between company and company, 
advanced slowly through the hedgerows in hard 
fighting. At 1530 contact was made with Timmes 
and the 1st Battalion of the 325th. A little later 
the 3d Battalion of the 508th reached Shanley's 
positions on Hill 30. By evening the 82d Division 
held a bridgehead two miles wide extending three- 
quarters of a mile west of the Merderet to the 
village of le Motey. 

The battle seemed won, but the 1057th Grena- 
diers, though terribly mauled, were still dangerous. 
At 1900 they launched a counterattack so savage 
that it almost broke through to the river. The 1st 
Battalion of the 325th Glider Infantry was cut off 
for a time. The regimental commander was evacu- 

fThe 2d Battalion of the 325th was assisting the 505th PIR 
in its attack northward from Ste Mere Eglise. 


— Airborke Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Assault 

ated with combat fatigue, and the executive sent 
word that he did not think he could hold. The rest 
of the 507th PIR, about 350 men, was hastily 
thrown into the line, and by 2045 the situation 
was stabilized. Casualties had been very heavy, 
the 325th having lost half its strength during the 
day. Exclusive of the 2d Battalion, it had 60 men 
dead, 283 seriously wounded, and 246 who were 
still missing two days later. 

At dawn on 10 June two regiments of the 90th 
Division passed through the bridgehead to relieve 
the airborne troops holding it and take up the at- 
tack westward across the peninsula. The 82d 
Division, except for the 505th PIR and one glider 
battalion which were attacking northward toward 
le Ham in collaboration with the 8th Infantry, was 
withdrawn to rest and reorganize. The initial 
phase of its operations was over. 21 

Evaluation of the Paratroop 

As D-day drew to a close, the feeling in IX TCC 
and 9th AF was that the delivery of the paratroops 
had been an outstanding success. Losses and 
aborts had been negligible, and mission reports in- 
dicated that all serials had done well. On 10 June 
came the reaction. General Quesada returned 
from a visit to Normandy with news that the para- 
troops had been badly scattered and that General 
Bradley was much disappointed. 22 

To put the matter in perspective, it is well to 
summarize just what had been accomplished. The 
troop carriers had undertaken to bring 13,348 
paratroops to Normandy. Of these, about 90 were 
brought back for one reason or another and 18 
were in a plane ditched before reaching the Con- 
tinent. About 100 in ALBANY and perhaps 30 
or 40 in BOSTON were killed when the planes 
carrying them were shot down. The rest jumped. 
Of the jumpers over 10 percent landed on their 
drop zones, between 25 and 30 percent landed 
within a mile of their zone or pathfinder beacon, 
and between 15 and 20 percent were from 1 to 2 
miles away. At least 55 percent of the pilots made 
drops within 2 miles of their goals. About 25 
percent of the troops came down between 2 
and 5 miles away from their zones or beacons. 
With few exceptions these landed east of Pont 
l'Abbe and north of the Douve, seemingly within 

reach of the combat area. About 10 percent were 
from 5 to 10 miles off the mark, and 4 percent 
were scattered between 10 and 25 miles from their 
zones. The remaining 6 percent were unaccounted 

The question arises why, if over 10,000 men 
were dropped within five miles of their zones, the 
101st Division had only about 1,100 troops and 
the 82d Division about 1,500 troops near their 
divisional objectives at H-hour (0630) four hours 
after the end of the drop. Why, too, did the 101st 
Division have only 2,500 paratroops under divi- 
sional control and the 82d Division about 2,000 
at midnight of D-day? The matter is important, 
for if the troops had been able to concentrate on 
their zones at even the rate of one mile an hour, 
three-quarters of the force dispatched would have 
gone into action against its objectives on the morn- 
ing of D-day and General Bradley would have had 
slight reason to complain of dispersion. 

Colonel Shanley's experiences and those of a 
multitude of others demonstrate that it often took 
most of a day to move a single mile in the hedge- 
row country, particularly if there was the slightest 
trace of opposition. This circumstance caused 
drop dispersion to seem much greater than it was 
and to have more serious consequences than would 
otherwise have been the case.f The isolation of 
large bodies of paratroops west of the Merderet 
and in the vicinity of DZ D accentuated the im- 
pression of weakness and dispersion which pre- 
vailed in higher headquarters on D plus 2 and D 
plus 3. Recognition that such groups as those 
under Shanley and Johnson had received good 
drops and had done valuable work did not come 
until later. 

On the other hand, it must be said that only six 
serials in the two paratroop missions achieved 
anything like compact drops. A map of the other 
drops looks as though a pepper shaker had been 
waved three or four times over each zone. Since 
the zones were all close together and the number 
of troops was great, these scatterings overlapped, 
blanketing the battle area. For miles around bands 
of paratroops attacked outposts and small troop 
movements and cut communications with paralyz- 

*Many of those were badly dropped, but undoubtedly some 
well-placed sticks went unreported because of battle losses. 

tThe 101st Division used the metal snappers known as 
crickets for recognition and assembly. In the bocage these 
proved helpful even by daylight. The 82d Division had relied 
on lights and patrol for assembly and did not have the crickets. 

The Assault 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 59 

ing effect.* The Germans even suspected that they 
were faced with a new tactic of saturation drops. 

Such a tactic, however, would be of dubious 
value, partly because of the vulnerability of scat- 
tered troops, and partly because of the need to 
concentrate decisive numbers at decisive points. 
The whole history of war shows that a good fight- 
ing team can usually beat the best individual 
fighters, and the effective mopping up of several 
hundred outlying paratroops in Normandy by 
quite small German units bears out this rule. The 
101st Division reported that it could not have 
held out in its scattered state for much more than 
24 hours without support from the beaches, and 
it seems doubtful whether even the veteran 82d 
Division could have lasted 48 hours without such 
help. If the 505th PIR had not been able to func- 
tion as a unit close to full strength because of its 
concentrated drop the plight of the 82d would have 
been disastrous. The ability of the airborne to 
clear causeways from the beaches and establish a 
perimeter of sorts from the sea to the Merderet 
was derived, not from dispersion but, on the con- 
trary, from the presence of barely enough men in 
the right place at the right time. If anyone had 
tried to tell Shettle's men at the le Port bridges or 
Company A of the 505th at la Fiere about the 
advantages of scattering troops the answers would 
surely have been unprintable. 

Having assessed the paratroop missions as bet- 
ter than sometimes supposed, but still only barely 
successful, the next step is to determine why they 
fell short of expectations. The evidence indicates 
that except for slight errors in timing, troop car- 
rier performance was almost flawless until the 
Normandy coast was reached, and that with one 
exception most subsequent difficulties may be 
traced to three factors, clouds, enemy action, and 
the limitations of navigational aids. 
" Of these, the cloudbank over the western Coten- 
tin was the most damaging. At least 9 of the 20 
main serials had plunged into the clouds and were 
badly dispersed as a result. All of the six making 
reasonably compact drops appear to have avoided 
the cloudbank. Since the clouds were over a 
thousand feet up and less than a thousand feet in 

"Most notable of their exploits was that of six paratroops of 
the 508th PIR who ambushed and killed Generalleutnant Wil- 
helm Falley, commander of the 91st Division, just as he was 
setting out by car at 0600 on D-day from his headquarters near 
( James M - Gavin, Airborne Warfare (Washington 
1947), p. 65; statement by POW Baumann, 11 Jun 44, in 82d 
Abn Div, G-2 File in Microfilm Box 2007, Item 2029 ) 

thickness it would have been easy to go over or 
under them with a minimum of warning. If only 
a weather plane had been sent to test conditions, 
if only radio silence rules had not prohibited one 
serial from warning those that followed, troop car- 
rier performance would have been immensely im- 
proved. Masses of low clouds were known to be 
over Normandy on three June nights out of four, 
and it must be rated as a serious planning error 
that no safeguard against their presence was made. 

Enemy fire had considerable effect, but it had 
been minimized as far as could reasonably be 
expected. Thanks to excellent intelligence, planes 
staying on course encountered very little flak. 
Thanks to effective tactical surprise and the pro- 
tection of the cloud bank, fire of any sort was slight 
until the planes were within five miles of the drop 
zones. Even then it was wild and ineffective, 
causing losses of under 2Vi percent. Although 
th^ilotsjiad^eenjvarned against evasive action 
many of them did indulge in it. After all, about a 
fifth of them had had only a minimum of training 
and three-quarters of them had never been under 
fire before. Later, in MARKET and VARSITY, 
they were to do better in this respect under much 
greater hazards. It should be remembered to then- 
credit that all but two stuck to their task and 
dropped their troops, many making repeated passes 
under fire in attempts to correct errors. Another 
adverse effect of ground fire was to interfere with 
navigation by distracting attention and concealing 
signals. A pilot whose plane was tossed about by 
a bursting shell might be a mile off course before 
he knew it. Light signals from formation leaders 
or from pathfinder troops on the ground could be 
hidden in a welter of flares, tracers and smoke. 

The pilots were forced to rely heavily on radar 
because for most of their way across Normandy 
the clouds rendered visual navigation nearly im- 
possible. In NEPTUNE radar proved to be a 
much less effective guide than radar enthusiasts 
had supposed. It did guide planes to the general 
vicinity of their zones, but it could not be relied 
on to produce an accurate drop. 

As already noted, SCR-717 was of little value 
in locating inland objectives. Gee was successful 
enough to rouse uncritical enthusiasm, but its 
margin of error in Normandy averaged about a 
mile. 23 Miscalculations or faulty adjustment could 
cause a three-mile error like that of the lead serial 
of the 438th Group. Although it had a bad repu- 

60 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Assault 

tation for breakdowns and vulnerability to jam- 
ming, Gee was 98 percent serviceable and almost 
unaffected by jamming in NEPTUNE. However, 
since only the pathfinders and one of two planes 
in each serial were equipped with Gee, it was of 
no help to the multitude of pilots whose forma- 
tions had broken up. 

Rebecca-Eureka, prescribed as the primary aid 
to be employed in approaching the drop zones, 
was so used in a majority of cases. Responses 
from the Eurekas on the zones were picked up 
clearly at an average distance of 16 miles, except 
at DZ A and DZ N. In the former case the bea- 
con was turned on too late for the first one or two 
serials, and in the latter, either because of jamming 
or because of malfunction, the reception was un- 
satisfactory. Had some beacons and some Rebecca 
sets been turned on sooner the average reception 
distance might have increased to about 20 miles. 
The average range of the Eurekas in England and 
on the marker boats was 22 miles, but in part this 
was achieved because the missions flew higher over 
England than during their approach to Normandy. 
As anticipated, precision dropping with Rebecca 
proved very difficult because the blips representing 
plane and beacon merged well before the plane 
reached its zone. This may have been the main 
reason why so many of the pilots came within 2 
miles of their zones, but were unable to hit them. 

Another weakness of Rebecca-Eureka was that, 
when many beacons were used in a small area, a 
Rebecca was likely to trigger the wrong beacon 
and receive its responses. Available channels were 
too few and too close together, and the sets were 
insufficiently selective to prevent such reception. 
Many pilots in NEPTUNE are known to have 
picked up the wrong beacon, and there is circum- 
stantial evidence that others made drops on the 
wrong beacon, despite the fact that each had its 
own distinctive coding. 

Most serious of all was the liability of Rebecca- 
Eureka to saturation if more than about 40 sets 
were in use at once. For this reason its use had 
been limited to flight leaders except in case of 
emergency. Although used by an estimated 150 
stragglers, and by as many as 30 of them at one 
time on one beacon, the Rebecca system did not 
become saturated. What did happen was that at 
least 150 pilots who needed to use it did not do so. 
In this category may be placed most of those who 
dropped their loads more than five miles from their 

zones. With few exceptions pilots making such 
drops had become separated from their flight- 
leaders. We may surmise that most of them had 
lost track of their position either because of v eva- 
sive action or because they had overshot and had 
to make an additional pass. Once disoriented, it 
was fatally easy for them to make a wrong guess 
as to where they were and proceed to the wrong 
destination, or, like the St. Jores group, to fall 
in behind others who were doing so. Cautious 
pilots used Rebecca and succeeded. Confident or 
overconscientious pilots hesitated to use it and 
went astray. Since the sets were 97 percent ser- 
viceable and had sufficient range to cover most 
of the Cotentin, almost every one of these wan- 
derers could have reached the drop area by using 
them. The error lay in the wording of the field 
orders which should have enjoined all individual 
stragglers and all leaders of straggling elements to 
make use of Rebecca, as soon as they became 
separated from their flight.* Admittedly this would 
have involved some risk of saturation, but the 
alternative course denied radar guidance to those 
who needed it most. 

Another handicap which fell especially on the 
inexperienced pilots who lost contact with their 
formations was that only two planes in five carried 
navigators. This number, all that the tables of 
organization permitted, was ample for formation 
flying by daylight, but stragglers on a difficult 
flight over enemy territory at night would have 
benefitted by having trained men to compute their 

One major episode, the bad drop made by the 
second serial of the 436th Group, is difficult to 
explain in the above terms. The three or four 
mile deviation of the lead elements might possibly 
have resulted from radar misuse or malfunction, 
but how a majority of the serial, could have drop- 
ped north of Montebourg is an enigma. 

If all had gone according to plan, formations 
guided by Gee or Rebecca to the vicinity of their 
zones would have seen lighted T's showing them 
exactly where to drop. However, on four zones 
out of six enemy action or the nearness of enemy 
troops prevented display of anything but an occa- 
sional surreptitious light. At a fifth zone, DZ A, 
the T was put out too late for two serials, one 
probably never came in sight of it, and the other 

*It is significant that field orders for airborne missions after 
NEPTUNE were worded to this effect. 

The Assault 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 61 

one slated to use it was scattered. On DZ O where 
T's were put out as planned the best drops in 
either ALBANY or BOSTON were achieved, and 
they were the best precisely because of corrections 
made after the T's were sighted. Since of all the 
other serials only two or three made even com- 
parably good drops, the case for use of lighted T's 
seems strong, if not conclusive. 

The difficulties encountered in NEPTUNE once 
again raised the question of whether night para- 
troop operations were worth while. Given the 
vulnerability of lighted beacons, the limitations of 
radar, and the difficulty of keeping formation at 
night, the advantage of being able to see one's way 
might more than balance the hazards of ground 
fire and air interception incurred by daytime mis- 
sions — provided the enemy were not too strong. 
So General Williams decided prior to DRAGOON, 
and so General Brereton decided before MARKET 
and VARSITY. Never again in World War II 
did any considerable number of Allied paratroops 
make a night drop. 

Initial Glider Missions 

For reasons already noted the follow-up mis- 
sions in NEPTUNE were comparatively small. 
They played only a minor part in the operations 
of the 101st Division because of its quick link-up 
with the seaborne forces. They were of real but 
limited assistance to the 82d Division. Their 
greatest value lay in the experience they provided 
in the little-known fields of aerial reinforcement 
and re-supply. 

The first reinforcements, consisting principally 
of artillery, were to be delivered by two glider 
missions, CHICAGO and DETROIT, about dawn 
on D-day. Late in May the time of the two mis- 
sions had been changed from civil twilight to be- 
fore daybreak to give the glider men greater safety 
from ground fire. Release time for CHICAGO 
was to be 0400 and that for DETROIT 0407. In 
vain did both the troop carrier and airborne com- 
manders protest to Leigh-Mallory that they were 
once more being committed to night landings and 
that such landings on the small fields of the Coten- 
tin might cost half the force in crashes alone.* 
Fear of German guns outweighed their objections 

and the decision stood. However, as a concession, 
about two days before D-day IX TCC was au- 
thorized to use Waco gliders exclusively in those 
two missions in place of the heavier, less maneuver- 
able and less familiar Horsas. The change entailed 
a hasty revision of loading plans and a substantial 
reduction in the amount carried. Since the two 
serials were to approach under cover of darkness, 
they could safely follow the same routes as the 
paratroops. CHICAGO, which was in support of 
the 101st Division, would follow the course of 
ALBANY, and DETROIT, which was to serve the 
8 2d Airborne, would follow the path of 

CHICAGO began at 0119 when 52 planes of 
the 434th Group, each towing a Waco, began their 
take-off from Aldermaston. Occupying 44 of the 
gliders were Batteries A and B of the 81st Air- 
borne AA Battalion. Aboard the others were 
medics, engineers, signal men, and a few staff per- 
sonnel, including Brig. Gen. Don F. Pratt,* assist- 
ant commander of the 101st Division. In all, the 
serial carried 155 airborne troops. The cargo con- 
sisted of sixteen 57-mm (6-pounder) antitank guns, 
25 vehicles, including a small bulldozer for the 
engineers, 2Vi tons of ammunition and 1 1 tons of 
miscellaneous equipment. 

The destination was LZ E, a roughly triangular 
area overlapping the west side of DZ C. Its north- 
ern side, a mile long, ran beside the road which 
connected Ste Marie-du-Mont and les Forges. Its 
western boundary was about Wi miles long. The 
slightly concave hypotenuse passed through the 
village of Hiesville, two miles west of Ste Marie. 
Like the rest of that region, the LZ was flat and 
divided into fields, of which most of those on the 
zone were between 300 and 400 yards long. Out- 
side the zone the average field was considerably 
shorter, many being only 200 yards in length. 
Early intelligence reports had described the fields 
as bordered by trees averaging 40 feet in height. 
These trees had not shown up well on reconnais- 
sance photographs, and their presence received 
little or no mention in the briefings of the glider 
pilots, who assumed that the borders were merely 
large hedges. 

The 434th made a good take-off, and with 
bright moonlight to assist it readily assembled 

tJIXV" 11 be recalled *at the glider training program of IX 
TCC had not included tactical landings at night. 

*Pratt's inclusion in the glider mission was an afterthought. 
He had originally been designated to command the seaborne 
echelon of the division. 

The Assault 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 63 

into columns of four in echelon to the right. 
Shortly thereafter a glider broke loose and landed 
four miles from the base. In it was a SCR-499 
radio by which the 101st Division was to have 
communicated with higher headquarters. The 
equipment was retrieved and sent that evening in 
KEOKUK Mission, but together with the loss of 
communications personnel and equipment in AL- 
BANY this accident prevented the Division from 
communicating with the outside world until after 
noon on D-day. 

The rest of the serial reached Normandy with- 
out incident, but encountered sporadic fire, mostly 
from small arms, while crossing the peninsula. The 
enemy shot down one plane and glider near Pont 
1'Abbe and inflicted minor damage on seven 
planes. Some slight damage was also done to the 
gliders. The weather over the Cotentin was cloudy 
but not enough so to cause dispersion. Only one 
pilot straggled out of formation. He released his 
glider south of Carentan, about eight miles from 
the LZ. The other 49 pilots reached the release 
area, split into two columns as prescribed to avoid 
congestion during the landings, and released their 
gliders from an altitude of 450 feet at 0354, six 

minutes ahead of schedule. They had been guided 
for the last 20 miles by a Eureka set up by the 
pathfinders and could see the green lights of the T 
flashing beneath them. After releasing they headed 
out over the St. Marcouf islands. All arrived safely 
at Aldermaston soon after 0530. 

Their portion of the operation had been success- 
ful, but the glider pilots ran into difficulties. They 
swept into the prescribed 270 degree left turn and 
in the process most of them apparently lost sight 
of the T. Without it in the dim light of a setting 
moon obscured by clouds they could not recognize 
their landing zone. Only 6 landed on the zone 
and 1 5 within about half a mile of it. Ten were 
neatly concentrated near les Forges, west of LZ E, 
and the other 18 scattered east and southeast of 
the zone, all but one landing within two miles of it. 

Most of the gliders made crash landings. This 
was to be expected. The Waco was capable of 
clearing the highest trees around the zones and 
landing within 300 yards, but in doing so there 
was almost no margin for error. Pilots attempting 
the feat in semi-darkness were likely to overshoot 
and ram into a tree or ditch at the far end of the 
field. The unexpectedness of the obstacles greatly 

Figure 6. Remnants of Gliders in a Normandy Hedgerow. 

64 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Assault 

increased the hazard. On smaller fields outside 
the zone a crash was inevitable, and the T had 
been misplaced somewhat west of its proper loca- 
tion, causing some glider pilots to mistake their 
position and land on unsuitable fields. 

Nevertheless the landings were successful. Dark- 
ness minimized the amount of effectiveness of 
enemy fire, and all but a handful of glider pilots 
managed to bring their craft to a stop without 
harming the passengers and contents, even though 
the gliders themselves were mostly crumpled be- 
yond repair. Five of the airborne, including Gen- 
eral Pratt, were killed, 17 were injured, and 7 were 

It took time to pry equipment out of smashed 
gliders, and more time to assemble, with occa- 
sional interruptions by rifle fire or mortar shells. 
A detachment sent out at dawn by the 101st Divi- 
sion to meet the mission at the LZ and guide the 
reinforcements to Hiesville did not return until 
noon, but when it came back it brought with it 3 
jeeps, 6 antitank guns, 115 glider troops, and 35 
prisoners to boot. Because of the bad drop of the 
377th FA Battalion, the division had for artillery 
only one 75-mm. pack howitzer on the northern 
perimeter near Foucarville and one captured Ger- 
man gun at the 506th's Culoville CP, so the glider- 
borne antitank guns were particularly welcome. 
On D plus 1 and D plus 2, they provided valuable 
support for Colonel Sink's thrusts southward 
against the Germans at St. C6me-du-Mont. 
CHICAGO Mission had succeeded beyond 
expectation. 25 

The 82d Division's initial glider mission, DE- 
TROIT, was flown from Ramsbury by the 437th 
Group. It was to follow 10 minutes after CHI- 
CAGO. The same Eureka beacon and T of green 
lights which had been provided for the paratroop 
drop on that zone would be used as aids for the 
gliders. The serial was made up of 52 C-47's and 
52 Wacos. It carried Batteries A and B of the 
80th Airborne Antiaircraft Battalion, part of the 
divisional staff, and a signal detachment, 220 
troops in all. Its cargo was 22 jeeps, 5 trailers, 
sixteen 57-mm antitank guns, and 10 tons of other 
equipment and supplies. 

The 437th Group began taking off at 0159 and 
had its serial in the air by 0223 with the exception 
of one plane which lost its glider, returned for a 
substitute, and delivered it to the LZ about half an 
hour behind the rest. The weather over England 

and the Channel was reported as favorable with 
visibility over 10 miles at most points. The Eu- 
rekas at the checkpoints were picked up at 10 to 
12 miles distance, and the lights at GALLUP' and 
HOBOKEN were visible from afar. Unaffected by 
distant fire from Alderney and Guernsey, the 
formation reached PEORIA intact. Then, like so 
many of its predecessors in the paratroop missions, 
it ran into the cloudbank, which at that time and 
place extended from an altitude of about 800 feet 
to approximately 1,400 feet. 

The leader and many others climbed to 1,500 
feet, went over the clouds, and let down two or 
three minutes later through breaks in the overcast. 
They emerged somewhat scattered and slightly 
north of course. However, a substantial portion 
of the serial plunged into the clouds and found 
itself in such dense obscurity that the glider pilots 
could not see their own tow planes. Inevitably 
that part of the formation broke up, although 
most of the pilots remained approximately on 

While in the cloudbank seven gliders broke 
loose, were released, or were cut loose by enemy 
fire. Two were later located in western Normandy, 
but the rest were still unaccounted for a month 
later. Further inland the clouds became thinner 
and more broken, but visibility was still bad 
enough to cause the premature release of seven 
more gliders on the west side of the Merderet. It 
appears that one or two pilots, catching a glimpse 
of the flooded valley ahead of them, mistook it for 
the sea and hastily gave the signal for release. 
Others behind them saw their gliders descending, 
assumed the zone had been reached, and likewise 
released their gliders. 

Once out of the clouds, the serial was harassed 
by small-arms and machine-gun fire. One plane 
was lost, 13 received enough damage to ground 
them temporarily on their return, and 25 more 
were decorated with bullet and shell holes. The 
gliders, too, incurred some damage and the troops 
suffered a number of casualties. 

About 37 pilots surmounted all difficulties and 
reached the vicinity of the LZ between 0401 and 
0410. The Eureka on LZ O was functioning and 
had been picked up by the leaders at a distance of 
15 miles. The T was not in operation, and certain 
glider pilots who reported seeing a green T south 
of Ste Mere Eglise had probably sighted the one 
on LZ E. 

The Assault 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 65 

Loose and disorganized as the serial was, part 
of it did make a concerted release in two columns 
with the left-hand column some 200 yards north 
of the LZ and the right-hand one heading over the 
center of the zone at altitudes between 400 and 
500 feet. Most of the stragglers released in that 
general area and at roughly the same altitude. 
After releasing, all planes dived down to about 100 
feet, skimmed out over the coast through a spatter 
of small-arms fire, and headed home. The first 
reached the runway at Ramsbury at 0522, and the 
last straggler was back by 0610. 

While the descent of the gliders in DETROIT 
was marked by no such confusion as had marred 
the big glider mission to Sicily, it was certainly not 
according to plan. Instead of spiralling smoothly 
into their appointed fields, the gliders came down 
by ones and by twos with each pilot following the 
pattern that seemed best to him. Several were 
under fire on their way down, and one glider pilot 
claimed to have been attacked by an enemy fighter 
(probably another glider), but the main difficulty 
was the inability of glider pilots to identify their 
proper fields or, in some cases, to orient themselves 
at all. The railway and the town of Ste Mere 
Eglise seem to have been the only landmarks that 
most could recognize in the dim light. Neverthe- 
less, between 17 and 23 managed to land on or 
near LZ O.* The best concentration among these 
was achieved by 5 pilots of the 84th Troop Carrier 
Squadron who landed their Wacos in adjoining 
fields at the western end of the LZ. Nine other 
gliders, including 2 which crash-landed in Ste 
Mere Eglise, were within two miles of the zone. 
Three, which came down near Hiesville, may have 
followed aids set out on LZ E for CHICAGO. 

As in CHICAGO safe landings were the excep- 
tion rather than the rule. Some 22 of the gliders 
were destroyed, and all but about a dozen were 
badly smashed. Again the principal cause of 
crashes was the smallness of the fields and the 
height of the trees surrounding them, but other 
hazards such as swamps, and the rows of posts 
known as "Rommel's asparagus," accounted for 
nearly half the crack-ups. One glider ran into a 
herd of cattle. The rough landings produced fewer 
casualties than might have been expected. Only 
three of the airborne troops were killed and 23 

* Interrogations of the glider pilots indicate that 23 were in 
the vicinity, but some of them are very vague as to their exact 

injured. Several jeeps broke loose and 1 1 of them 
were unusable. The guns were more durable. Of 
8 landed within two miles of the zone all remained 

One effect of the dispersion of the paratroops 
was to provide friendly reception committees on 
the spot for most of the gliders even in cases where 
they missed the zone by a considerable distance. 
Overjoyed to get artillery, these men were of great 
assistance in unloading. They blasted down a wall 
to get one gun out of an orchard in St Mere Eglise 
and ripped another out of a Waco which had 
wrapped itself around a tree. By noon four of 
the guns were in action at la Fiere and two or 
three others on the outskirts of Ste Mere Eglise. 
Though hardly more than 50 percent effective, the 
mission had given the airborne troops some badly 
needed firepower. 26 

Glider Missions 

Between dawn and early evening on D-day the 
troop carriers undertook no further operations, but 
about 2100, two hours before sunset two more 
glider missions, KEOKUK and ELMIRA, arrived 
over Normandy. As already noted, these and 
subsequent missions were heavily escorted and 
minimized their exposure to German antiaircraft 
by approaching their objectives from the east coast 
over the UTAH beachhead. 

KEOKUK was flown from Aldermaston for the 
101st Division by 32 planes of the 434th Group, 
each towing a Horsa. The big gliders carried 157* 
signal, medical, and staff personnel, 40 vehicles, 6 
guns, and about 19 tons of other equipment and 
supplies. Release was to be made at 2100 hours 
over LZ E. At 1830 the first tug and glider took 
off on what proved to be an incredibly easy mis- 
sion as far as the aircraft crews were concerned. 
With good weather and daylight all the way every- 
one kept on course and in formation. No enemy 
aircraft were encountered and virtually no ground 
fire. Battle damage consisted of a few nicks in one 
plane. A detachment of glider pilots had been 
busy clearing the drop zone and cutting down 
trees, and the pathfinders had marked it with a 
yellow panel T and green smoke. 

The serial, like most of its predecessors, arrived 

*Given as 165 in Leonard Rapport and Arthur Northwood, 
Jr., Rendezvous With Destiny (Washington, 1948), p. 133. 

66 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Assault 

ahead of schedule, and the gliders were released 
at 2053. The pilots then circled and returned as 
they had come over the St. Marcouf islands, and 
GALLUP. They reached Aldermaston at 2228. 

The glider pilots had a harder time than the 
plane crews. The Germans still had considerable 
forces around Turqueville, two miles north of LZ 
E, and St. Come, two miles south of the zone, and 
had not been entirely cleared from the area be- 
tween. After holding fire as the planes passed 
over, the enemy concentrated it on the descending 
gliders but were not near enough to do much harm. 
Operating in daylight, most of the glider pilots 
were able to land the Horsas with no more than 
moderate damage, a fact worth noting in view of 
what was to happen later in ELMIRA Mission.* 
However, bullets and accidents combined to kill 
14 troops and cause 30 other casualties. Ten of 
the airborne were missing. They had been in two 
gliders which landed within the German lines near 
les Droueries. 

The distribution of the landings indicates that 
most of the serial had released its gliders at least 
a mile short of the proper point. Fourteen gliders 
were concentrated in a few fields about VA. miles 
northeast of LZ E; five were at points several 
hundred yards further east; eight were scattered 
southeast of the zone at distances up to two miles 
from it; and only five landed on the LZ itself. 

KEOKUK was helpful rather than essential to 
the operations of the 101st Division. However, 
it is important as the Allies' first tactical glider 
operation in daylight. It indicated that gliders, 
when not exposed to fire at close range, could be 
landed in daytime without excessive losses. 27 

ELMIRA, the other glider mission on the eve- 
ning of D-day was to reinforce the 82d Division. 
In order to limit the glider columns to a defensible 
length and to reduce congestion during the glider 
landings it was split into two echelons. One, tow- 
ing 76 gliders, was to be 10 minutes behind KEO- 
KUK, the other, towing 100 gliders, would go two 
hours later. 

The goal of the mission was LZ W, an oval 
about 2,800 yards long from north to south and 
over 2,000 yards wide on terrain much like that of 
LZ E. The northern tip of the oval was about a 
mile south of Ste Mere Eglise, and the highway 
from that town to Carentan ran through the middle 
of the zone. About 1,000 yards inside the south- 

*See below, pp. 67-68. 

ern end of the LZ, the highway was intersected 
at les Forges by the east-west road from Ste Marie- 

The first echelon contained two serials, one of 
26 planes of the 437th Group, towing 8 Wacos 
and 18 Horsas, and a second of 50 from the 438th 
Group with 14 Wacos and 36 Horsas. The Wacos 
were segregated in separate flights to reduce the 
problem of flying two types of glider in one forma- 
tion. Within the gliders of the first echelon were 
Battery C of the 80th Airborne AA Battalion, 
contingents of medics, signal men and divisional 
headquarters personnel, a reconnaissance platoon 
and an air surrport party — 437 men in all. The 
cargo comprised 64 vehicles, mostly jeeps, 13 
antitank guns (57-mm.), and 24V4 tons of other 
supplies and equipment. 

The 437th took off from Ramsbury between 
1907 and 1921, and the 438th from Greenham 
Common between 1848 and 1916. Climbing with 
the heavily laden Horsas was a slow business, but 
all planes succeeded in assembling and setting out 
in formation. Over England squally weather made 
the gliders hard to handle; they veered and pitched 
on their long ropes. From then on the weather 
was excellent with unlimited visibility and scat- 
tered clouds overhead at 3,000 feet. At Portland 
Bill the escort appeared. The sky seemed full of 
P-47's, P-51's and P-38's, an impressive array. 
Besides "delousing" patrols ahead of the column, 
fighters were flying close cover on both sides and 
high cover at between 3,000 and 5,000 feet. No 
German planes appeared to challenge them, and 
the columns flew in serenely over UTAH Beach. 

Not until the release point was almost reached 
did ground fire begin. This rapidly increased in 
intensity and did considerable damage. The vol- 
ume of fire was moderate, the period of exposure 
was short, and the weapons employed were small 
arms and machine guns with a little 20-mm. flak, 
but the shooting was unpleasantly accurate. Enemy 
troops were close to the line of flight, and the 
mission had neither surprise nor darkness to pro- 
tect it. Two aircraft were shot down after releasing 
their gliders, but only two or three injuries re- 
sulted. One of the two planes, its engines dead, 
dived between two trees, stripping off both wings 
and engines, yet skidded safely to rest. Some 37 
aircraft returned to England with slight or mod- 
erate damage. Two had dead engines, one had 65 
bullet holes, and one limped in with the crew 

The Assault 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 67 

chief holding its shattered feed lines together. 
Three men had been slightly wounded. 

LZ W, a short six miles from the coast, should 
have been easy to locate. The landscape was still 
plainly visible, and some pilots saw a panel T and 
green smoke, near which a Eureka beacon was 
sending out signals, clearly received on the Re- 
becca sets in the planes. However, because of an 
emergency as yet unknown to IX TCC, the T, 
smoke and radar were not on LZ W but two 
miles northwest of it. A potential source of 
further confusion was the presence of the panel T 
and green smoke set out for KEOKUK in the 
vicinity of LZ E, which was two miles east of les 

Guided by Gee and by visual identification of 
the terrain, the leader of the 437th Group headed 
straight for LZ W and released his glider there at 
2104, followed, it appears, by almost all his serial. 
Ten minutes later planes of the 438th Group ap- 
peared over the zone and made their release, but, 
part of the serial had erroneously loosed their 
gliders over LZ E. Release altitudes were gen- 
erally between 500 and 750 feet. From such 
heights a Waco could glide more than two miles, 
a Horsa less than a mile. After releasing their 
gliders, the troop carrier pilots swung their planes 
into a 180 degree left turn, thereby exposing them- 
selves to fire from the Germans around St. Come- 
du-Mont, and headed out over UTAH Beach. 
They were back at their bases within two hours. 

No one who knew the situation on LZ W at that 
moment would have recommended landing gliders 
on it. The wedge of German resistance between 
Turqueville and Carquebut extended across the 
northern part of the zone and isolated it from the 
territory taken by the 505th Parachute Regiment. 
The paratroops around Ste Mere Eglise could not 
get through the belt of German territory to recon- 
noiter LZ W, let alone to set up beacons there, and 
until late in the day General Ridgway had every 
reason to believe that the entire zone was in Ger- 
man hands. Hence he had decided to place the 
beacons and markers in the vicinity of LZ O. He 
had attempted to get word of the situation to IX 
TCC, first by radio and later by panels laid out for 
a reconnaissance plane, but the message was not 
received, and the panels were not observed. 

During the afternoon of the 6th two battalions 
of the 8th Infantry Regiment had driven the enemy 
from the southern portion of LZ W, and small 

seaborne elements of the 82d Division under Col. 
Edson D. Raff made two unsuccessful attempts 
later to push the Nazis from the rest of the zone. 
However, when the gliders arrived the Germans 
still held approximately the northern quarter of 
the LZ. From their lines southward almost to les 
Forges the zone was a no-man's land, full of 
snipers, traversed by German patrols, and under 
observed fire from mortars and an 88-mm. gun on 
high ground near Fauville. Raff's men did their 
best to steer the gliders to safety by waving yellow 
flags and making an F of orange smoke, but the 
glider pilots either did not see them or did not 
know what to make of the unexpected signals.* 

As a final hazard, landings had to be made in 
the face of obstacles greater than those on the 
other zones. Not only were there "postage stamp" 
fields 200 yards long, bordered by 50-foot trees, 
but also some of the designated fields turned out 
to be flooded and others were studded with poles 
more than 5 inches thick and 10 feet or more in 
height. Trip-wires for mines had been attached to 
many of the poles but fortunately, the mines 
themselves had not been installed. 

A fairly typical landing was that of the Horsa 
carrying Capt. William W. Bates of the 53d Wing. 
Unable to reach a large field, the pilot picked a 
small one, lowered his flaps, and landed at about 
70 miles an hour. The glider bounced twice and 
when about 10 feet off the ground on its second 
bounce crashed through a row of trees which strip- 
ped it of its wings and landing gear. The craft 
scraped to a stop 10 yards behind Raff's forward 
positions. There were plenty of bullet holes in 
the tail, but the only casualty was a soldier who 
suffered a broken leg as a result of leaving his 
safety belt unbuckled during the landing. The 
cargo, an ammunition trailer, was intact and was 
unloaded in 20 minutes. The episode illustrates 
the surprising degree to which the passengers and 
cargoes of the gliders survived crash landings. 

All things considered, the glider pilots did fairly 
well under difficult circumstances. Only two glid- 
ers in the first serial landed on LZ W, but 12 came 
within a mile and all but one or two were within 
two miles of it. In the second serial all but one of 
the 14 Wacos, flown by the 88th Troop Carrier 
Squadron, landed on or very near the zone, 9 

* Orange smoke and yellow panels were supposed to indicate 
friendly troops, but there was no plan to have them mark 
landing zones. 

68 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Assault 

Horsas hit the zone, and 6 came within a mile of it. 
On the other hand, a dozen Horsas in that serial 
landed near LZ E, and 4 Horsas missed the zone 
by about three miles. Few, if any, followed the 
pathfinder aids to LZ O, and the 82d Division 
therefore considered the release inaccurate. 

Thanks to greater durability and their longer 
gliding range the Wacos made a much better safety 
record than the Horsas. Over half of them landed 
intact, while only about 20 percent of the Horsas 
were undamaged. Three Wacos and 21 Horsas 
were destroyed, but much of the destruction was 
caused by enemy action. Particularly in the case 
of landings north of les Forges, the lives of the 
men often depended on their jumping out of the 
glider and into the nearest ditch before the Ger- 
mans could bring artillery, mortars or machine 
guns to bear on them. Unloading had to wait until 
nightfall or until it was clear the glider was not 
being used as a target. However, within a few 
hours most of the men and materiel which had 
landed in friendly territory on or near the LZ had 
been brought to Colonel Raff's command post on 
the north side of les Forges. Of the glider pilots 5 
had been killed, 4 were missing and 17 had been 
wounded or injured. The airborne had five killed 
and 18 injured or wounded. None of them were 
missing for long. 28 

The second echelon of ELMIRA contained one 
50-plane serial from the 436th Group at Membury 
with two Wacos and 48 Horsas, and another from 
the 435th Group at Welford with 12 Wacos and 38 
Horsas. With them went a paratroop plane of the 
435th which had failed to drop its troops on the 
previous night. The great capacity of the Horsas, 
one of which could carry a 75-mm howitzer, a 
jeep and five men, enabled these serials to carry 
much more than those in the morning missions. 
The first serial carried the 319th Field Artillery 
Battalion and a few other artillerymen, medics and 
engineers, a total of 418 airborne troops. As 
cargo it had 31 jeeps, twelve 75-mm. howitzers, 
26 tons of ammunition and 25 tons of other equip- 
ment. The second serial was occupied exclusively 
by the 320th Field Artillery Battalion with 319 
troops, twelve 105-mm. howitzers, 28 jeeps, 
33 tons of ammunition and 23 tons of other 

The troop carriers set out still unaware that the 

♦According to the report of the 82d Division, the 12 Waco 
gliders in that serial each carried a 105-mm. howitzer. 

82d Division was marking LZ O instead of LZ W. 
They did receive a last-minute phone call from the 
53d Wing directing them to make a 180 degree 
right turn after releasing their gliders instead bf 
the left turn prescribed in their orders. Presum- 
ably IX TCC had learned that the Germans still 
held the St. Come area in strength. 

The lead plane of the 436th took off at 2037 
and that of the 435th about 2040. As the 435th 
circled upward to form its column of fours, one 
Horsa broke loose, and one plane turned back 
with its generators burned out. Both loads were 
towed in next morning with the 437th Group as 
part of GALVESTON mission. The trip to the east 
coast of Normandy was uneventful. The weather 
was favorable and the fighter cover lavish, but, 
presumably because of the impending darkness, 
the escort turned back at the St. Marcouf islands. 

The sun set a few minutes before the serials 
reached UTAH Beach, and as they passed over 
Normandy the landscape lay in deepening shadow. 
The pathfinder troops on LZ E had long since 
ceased operations. Undistracted by landmarks or 
rival beacons, the second installment of ELMIRA 
headed for the Eureka and the visual aids set up 
by the 8 2d Division in the vicinity of LZ O. 

To their surprise, about three miles inland the 
serials ran into fire bad enough to make the 435th's 
paratroop operation seem like a milk run. The fire 
grew more intense as they approached the LZ, and 
continued during their 1 80 degree turn to the right 
and, in some cases at least, all the way back to 
the coast. The explanation is simple when one 
realizes that a course from UTAH to LZ O would 
pass over or just north of the German positions at 
Turqueville, that the LZ area was within range 
of German forces north of Ste Mere Eglise, and 
that a right turn after release would bring the 
planes directly over those forces. A wide turn or 
a slight deviation to the north would put a pilot 
over German-held territory clear to the beaches. 
German marksmanship was also aided by the 
American flame-dampeners which became white 
hot and shone brightly in the semidarkness. 

The barrage was less deadly than it appeared. 
The harm it caused aboard the planes was propor- 
tionately about the same as that inflicted on the 
previous echelon. In the first serial 33 aircraft 
received some slight damage, and two troop car- 
rier men were wounded. In the other, three air- 
craft had to be ditched on the way back because of 

The Assault 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 69 

hits on engines or fuel systems. All personnel 
aboard them were rescued. Two planes had to 
make emergency landings in England, and 20 more 
were damaged but readily repairable. One mem- 
ber of the 435th Group was killed and one 
wounded. Both groups scattered and returned in 
driblets, some arriving as late as 0300 next 

The initial glider release in this part of EL- 
MIRA occurred at 2255, five minutes ahead of 
schedule. The second serial loosed its first glider 
at 2305. Most of the lead serial released their 
gliders over a mile short of LZ O, and six gliders 
were released at least five miles east of the zone.* 
The main body of the second serial was quite accu- 
rate, but five of its pilots went to LZ W by mis- 
take. Either they were not using Rebecca or they 
trusted their briefing more than the beacon. 

Once again small fields and enemy fire played 
havoc with the glider landings. The fire in some 
places was intense, and many men were killed or 
wounded in the one or two minutes before their 
gliders reached the ground. Some pilots, despite 
strict orders for a slow landing, slammed their 
Horsas into the landing fields at 100 miles an hour. 
Since the fields were short, some being only 100 
yards long, and since the twilight made a precise 
approach over the hedgerows increasingly difficult, 
even the most careful pilots were lucky to escape 
a crash. 

Counting some damage done after landing by 
enemy fire, only 13 of 84 Horsas were left intact, 
and 56 of them were totally destroyed. There was 
a widespread feeling among the glider pilots that 
the Wacos, with their gentler glide and tougher 
frames would have done better, but none of the 
14 Wacos which were sent survived intact and 8 
of them were destroyed. Of 196 glider pilots 10 
were killed, 29 or more were wounded or injured, 
and 7 were still missing at the end of the month. 
The airborne had 28 killed and 106 wounded or 
injured, but hardly any were missing for more than 
two days. 

Once again the occupants of most of the gliders 
had to take cover immediately after landing, and 
unloading was postponed until after dark. The 
cargoes had come through surprisingly well. The 
435th Group estimated that 39 of its 48 loads 

*Some sanction to these premature releases was provided 
by the field orders, which prescribed release short of the zone 
but within gliding range of it to minimize exposure of aircraft 
to enemy fire. 

were usable, and this is confirmed by estimates 
from glider units that 42 out of 59 jeeps, 28 out 
of 39 trailers and 15 out of 24 howitzers were 
serviceable. However, much of the materiel could 
not be collected or used immediately.* 29 

The focal point of the landings of the gliders in 
the first serial was almost two miles northeast of 
LZ O. This put them near to and in some cases 
within the German positions. A member of the 
divisional artillery staff, who had come with the 
serial, gathered about 200 men of the 319th and 
led them during the night into the lines of the 4th 
Division east of Ste Mere Eglise. Other groups 
made their way back with more or less difficulty, 
and at 1715 on 8 June the 319th Field Artillery 
went into action near Chef-du-Pont with almost all 
its men and 6 of its howitzers. 

In the second serial, carrying the 320th Field 
Artillery, all gliders but the five released near LZ 
W and one or two released a few seconds too soon 
northeast of Ste Mere Eglise landed within a mile 
of LZ O. Maj. Robert M. Silvey of the 320th, who 
had landed in DETROIT Mission that morning, 
was waiting beside the pathfinders on the zone and 
soon gathered slightly less than half the battalion 
with two usable howitzers. These began firing at 
0930 on the 7th from positions 400 yards west of 
Ste Mere Eglise. Thereafter patrols brought in a 
steady stream of troops and materiel from outlying 
gliders, and by evening of 8 June the battalion had 
eight of its howitzers in action, including two 
landed in the vicinity of LZ W, and had accounted 
for practically all of its personnel. 30 

Glider Missions on D plus 1 — 

Reports of the hazards and confusion which 
plagued ELMIRA prompted the 53d Wing to 
make certain changes in GALVESTON, the first 
glider mission scheduled for D plus 1. Landfall 
was to be made four miles south of UTAH Beach 
on the north side of the Douve estuary. Instead of 
using LZ W the pilots were to release their gliders 
in the vicinity of LZ E about a mile west of Ste 
Marie-du-Mont, and their homeward turn after 
release would be made to the left, instead of the 
right. These changes would keep the serials out of 

*There are substantial differences between the two chief 
sources for these figures. (Hq 82d Abn Div, Action in Nor- 
mandy, Annex 5; Table on Landings of the 320th Gl FA Bn, 
in Box 2029 AGO microfilm, Item 2101.) 

70 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Assault 

range of the enemy north of Ste Mere Eglise and 
in the Turqueville enclave. 

GALVESTON was designed to reinforce the 
8 2d Division with guns, vehicles and glider in- 
fantry. Its first serial, flown by the 437th Group 
from Ramsbury, consisted of 50 planes towing 32 
Wacos and 18 Horsas. In the gliders were the 1st 
Battalion of the 325th Glider Infantry, and part 
of an engineer company, a total of 717 troops with 
17 vehicles, 9 pieces of artillery and 20 tons of 
equipment. The second serial was made up of 50 
planes and 50 Wacos, flown by the 434th Group 
from Aldermaston. Aboard were the headquarters 
of the 325th Glider Infantry, the Reconnaissance 
Platoon of the 8 2d Division and sundry engineers 
and artillerymen, in all, 25 1 men with 24 vehicles, 
1 1 guns, 5 tons of ammunition and 1 Vt. tons of 
other materiel. With the mission went two planes 
of the 435th Group towing Horsas which had 
aborted in ELMIRA. 

Take-offs at the two fields began at 0439 and 
0432 respectively, more than half an hour before 
dawn, in conditions of poor visibility, rain, and 
gusty wind. One Horsa of the 437th with a 1000- 
pound overload wouldn't budge off the ground. 
Another was accidentally released during assem- 
bly, but its tug plane returned and picked up a 
substitute. One glider of the 434th Group like- 
wise was released over the field and was replaced 
by a substitute. Another broke loose near Port- 
land Bill, too far away to transfer its load. 

Over the Channel and over Normandy the 
weather improved. The rain gave way to thin, 
high, broken clouds and the visibility became ex- 
cellent. The mission followed the beacons to 
GALLUP, turned there and proceeded by pilotage 
and dead reckoning to the St. Marcouf Islands, and 
the mouth of the Douve. Since the sun was up 
and the Normandy coast plainly visible most of 
the way after GALLUP, navigation was not diffi- 
cult. The serials passed over or near many Allied 
ships, but by daylight the glider formations and 
their identifying stripes were recognized in all 
cases. Some of the gliders, sluggish because of 
overloads, were hard to manage, and some forma- 
tions became scrambled. One glider pilot reported 
seeing C-47's above and beneath him as he ap- 
proached Normandy. 

Between the coast and the LZ both serials re- 
ported small arms fire of medium intensity, prob- 
ably from German elements pushed south from 

the UTAH area on the previous day and not yet 
mopped up. The 437th was also fired on after its 
turn, which probably brought it over the German 
salient around St. Come. In the 437th's serial 
8 planes received moderate damage and 18 in 
the 434th were hit, none of them seriously. 

The 437th Group arrived at 0655, five minutes 
ahead of schedule. Its serial came in low and 
released most of its gliders from between 200 and 
300 feet and a few of them even lower. Release 
at such altitudes meant that the gliders could not 
glide much more than half a mile or stay in the 
air over half a minute. It decreased exposure to 
enemy fire but increased the chance of accidents. 
All but five or six of the gliders were released too 
soon and landed between the two southern cause- 
ways and LZ E, the greatest concentration being 
a mile northeast of Ste Marie-du-Mont. 

The gliders landing east of LZ E had only an 
occasional sniper or mortar shell to harass them, 
but suffered many accidents. No less than 10 of 
the Horsas were destroyed and 7 damaged with 
17 troops killed and 63 injured. Of the Wacos 9 
were destroyed and 15 were damaged, but only 22 
of their passengers were injured and none killed. 
The glider pilots apparently had no deaths and 
few injuries. 

The 434th Group, flying second in GALVES- 
TON, reached its release area at 0701, nine min- 
utes ahead of time. Unlike the first serial it ap- 
pears to have released on LZ W and, despite lack 
of beacons and markers, to have done so very 
accurately. The 8 2d Division credited it with 20 
gliders landed on the zone, 19 within a mile of it 
and 8 within 2 miles. One was 2Vi miles off and 
one AVz miles away. Accidents destroyed 16 
Wacos and damaged 26, but no troops were killed 
and only 13 injured. Moreover, at least 19 jeeps, 
6 trailers and 7 guns were found in usable condi- 
tion. The enemy around Turqueville still kept LZ 
W under fire, but in spite of them the gliders were 
unloaded in fairly good time and the glider troops 
assembled near les Forges. 31 

The last glider mission in NEPTUNE was 
HACKENSACK, which was flown to LZ W two 
hours after GALVESTON. Its lead serial, 50 
planes towing 30 Horsas and 20 Wacos, was pro- 
vided by the 439th Group at Upottery. This 
carried the 2d Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry 
and most of the 2d Battalion, 401st Glider Infan- 
try, which was attached to the 325th and acted as 

The Assault 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 71 

its third battalion. These numbered 968 troops,* 
of which Horsas carried over 800. The cargo in- 
cluded 5 vehicles, 11 tons of ammunition and 10 
tons of other supplies. The other serial consisted 
of 50 planes and 50 Wacos of the 441st Group 
from Merryfield. They carried 363 troops, f mostly 
service personnel of the 325th and 401st, and 18 
tons of equipment, including twelve 81-mm. mor- 
tars, 20 jeeps, 9 trailers and 6 tons of ammunition. 
A pathfinder aircraft, piloted by Col. Julian M. 
Chappell, commander of the 50th Wing, and Lt. 
Colonel Kershaw of the 441st, accompanied the 
serial to guide it to the zone. 

Take-off, conducted from static hook-up, was 
begun at 0647 from Upottery and about 0717 
from Merryfield. Some of the troop carriers com- 
plained that the airborne had seriously overloaded 
their gliders, making them difficult to handle. The 
sky was leaden and the air so rough that specta- 
tors on the ground could easily observe the pitching 
of the gliders. After England was left behind, 
conditions improved. The ceiling rose from 2,000 
to 8,000 feet and the clouds thinned out. Over 
France they were scattered with bases over 3,000 
feet, and visibility was excellent. Like the day- 
light missions of the day before, HACKENSACK 
was accompanied from the English coast by a large 
escort which the troop carriers described as ex- 
cellent and very reassuring. The approach was 
made by the east-coast route over the St. Marcouf 
Islands and UTAH to LZ W. No enemy planes 
were seen, and ground fire was negligible until the 
LZ was reached. Even there it was directed mostly 
at the gliders. The lead serial began its release at 
0851, nine minutes ahead of schedule, and the 
other released its first gliders at 0859, eleven min- 
utes early. They then turned to the right, and 
went home as they had come except for the au- 
thorized short cut from the English coast to the 
wing assembly area. Meager small-arms fire dur- 
ing and after the homeward turn scored some hits. 
Three planes in the 439th and eight in the 441st 
were damaged, but none were lost. In general the 
flights held together during the return. Between 
about 1000 and 1038 all pilots arrived at their 
bases, except one who landed at Warmwell with a 
dead engine. 

*According to the 82d Division, the number was 982. (Hq 
82d Abn Div, Action in Normandy, Annex 5.) 

tThe operations report of the 441st Group lists 463 troops, 
but this figure appears to include the pilots and co-pilots of 
the gliders. 

Release had been made from about 600 feet. 
The 439th Group seems to have released by squad- 
rons, rather than as a unit, and, since there was no 
marking on the zone to guide them, the glider 
pilots headed wherever they saw a promising spot. 
A dozen gliders from one squadron came down 
near the northern end of the zone under intense 
fire which killed several of the troops before they 
reached the ground. Most of the gliders in another 
squadron came down about a mile west of the 
zone, while a third had several land about 2Vz 
miles east of it. The last squadron's gliders were 
released over the southwest side of LZ W with the 
result that some came down in the flooded area, 
which at that point extended very close to the 
zone, if not actually into it. Of 29 Horsas ac- 
counted for, 12 landed within a mile of the zone, 
7 more within 2 miles of it, 9 from 2 to 4 miles 
away, and one 9 miles off. Of the Wacos, 7 were 
within a mile, 6 more within 2 miles, and 6 be- 
tween 2 and 4 miles away, one location being 

Small fields, high trees, flooded marshland, 
poles and wires set up by the Germans, debris 
from previous glider landings, enemy fire caused 
numerous accidents. No less than 16 Horsas were 
destroyed and 10 damaged in landing, 15 of the 
troops aboard them being killed and 59 injured. 
Of the Wacos only 4 were destroyed and 10 dam- 
aged, apparently without casualties. Two glider 
pilots in the serial were killed, and 10 or 11 

For no obvious reason the comparatively inex- 
perienced 441st Group did vastly better than the 
three preceding serials. It made a concerted re- 
lease over the northern part of LZ W, and its 
gliders started down in the approved spiral pat- 
tern. The hazards and obstacles already described 
forced many glider pilots to zig-zag about, looking 
for a safe landing place, but by daylight in Wacos 
released above 600 feet they could pick and choose 
in an area of several square miles. At least 25 
gliders in this serial hit the zone, another 19 were 
within about a mile of it, and the remaining 6 were 
probably not far off. Although 8 Wacos were de- 
stroyed and 28 damaged, only one of the airborne 
occupants was killed and 15 injured; while 18 out 
of 20 jeeps and 8 out of 9 trailers came through 
unscathed. One glider pilot was killed and five 
injured. Highly accurate, with few casualties and 
with cargoes almost intact, this one serial reached 

72 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Assault 

the standard that glider enthusiasts had dreamed 

By about 1015 all battalions of the glider regi- 
ment had reported in and were ready to support 
the 82d Division. The glider men's first task was 
to send a battalion westward to Carquebut to deal 
with the Germans who had held out so stubbornly 
there on the previous night against the 8th 

The unit arrived early in the afternoon only to 
find the area deserted. The Germans had fled. It 
then followed the rest of the 325th to Chef-du- 
Pont where the regiment was to report for duty as 
divisional reserve of the 82d Division. That eve- 
ning the 1st Battalion had 545 officers and men 
fit for duty, the 2d Battalion had 624, and the 3d 
had 550. Only 57 of their troops were missing, 
all but one of those being from the 1st Battalion. 
Despite the death or injury of 7.5 percent of its 
men during landing about 90 percent of the regi- 
ment was ready for action. 32 

Evaluation of the Glider Missions 

The glider operations had gone as well as most 
experts expected and vastly better than some had 
predicted. The predawn missions had demon- 
strated that gliders could deliver artillery to diffi- 
cult terrain in bad weather and semidarkness and 
put 40 to 50 percent of it in usable condition within 
two miles of a given point. The missions on D plus 
1 had shown that by day infantry units could be 
landed within artillery range of an enemy and 
have 90 percent of their men assembled and ready 
for action within a couple of hours. While some 
felt that CHICAGO and DETROIT proved the 
feasibility of flying glider missions at night, the 
general consensus was that landing in daytime or 
at least about sun-up had proven to be much more 
accurate and much less subject to accidents and 
that the vulnerability of gliders to ground fire had 
been overrated. 

Many of the difficulties encountered had been 
unavoidable, particularly those of terrain and of 
weather. However, the glider pilots were con- 
vinced that they would have made better landings 
if provided with low-level oblique photographs 
plainly showing the tree-studded hedges. Also 
DETROIT would have benefitted from a warning 
to avoid the cloud-bank on the west coast. 

In ELMIRA and GALVESTON confusion and 

casualties resulted from German occupation of 
LZ W and from the inability of the 82d Division 
to inform the troop carriers of the situation. One 
solution proposed to avert such crises was to send 
an advance party with ground-air radio to talk the 
gliders in. Since such a party might itself fall prey 
to enemy action or to accident, it seems that pro- 
vision might also have been made for alternate 
zones and for standardized visual signals to indi- 
cate that zones had been changed. As will be seen, 
this problem could also arise in parachute resupply 
missions and played a serious part in MARKET. 

American experience in Normandy indicated 
that the Waco was easier to fly, much easier to 
land, and very much more durable than the Horsa. 
Such a conclusion was not entirely warranted, 
since the unfamiliarity of their American pilots, 
the low release altitudes of the American missions, 
and the use of fields of minimum size for landings 
had combined to show the Horsas in an unfavor- 
able light. In Normandy and in other operations 
later the British got good results with the big 

The IX Troop Carrier Command was also con- 
vinced that its operations in NEPTUNE had 
proved the superiority of the Griswold nose, de- 
signed to protect gliders against vertical obstacles 
like trees and posts, as compared to the Corey nose 
which enabled gliders to ride up over logs or other 
low, horizontal obstructions. Again the verdict 
was premature. Had the Germans felled trees 
- instead of erecting posts as obstacles the Corey 
nose might have been preferable. 

In hopes of recovering a substantial proportion 
of the gliders used in NEPTUNE the AAF had 
sent to England 108 sets of glider pick-up equip- 
ment. In essence this apparatus was simply a 
hook underneath an aircraft fuselage. As the 
plane flew low over a stranded glider the hook 
would engage a loop of tow rope raised on a light 
frame and snatch the glider into the air. Since 
an empty Waco weighed less than 3,700 pounds, 
the shock of the pick-up was not excessive. 

Although IX Troop Carrier Command had put 
half its pick-up sets in storage, damaged 20 others, 
and had only a limited number of crews qualified 
for pick-up operations, its resources proved to be 
more than sufficient. The American Horsas in Nor- 
mandy were practically all unflyable.* All but 

*The British retrieved some of their Horsas late in the sum- 
mer, using Dakotas with American pick-up equipment. 

The Assault 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 73 

Figure 7. Pick-up of a Waco Glider from a Field in Normandy. 

about 40 of the Wacos were also found to be un- 
serviceable or inaccessible to pick-up planes. Many 
of the remainder were damaged by vandals before 
they could be picked up. Some gliders in marginal 
condition might have been repaired on the spot or 
after a short flight to some base in Normandy. 
However, the troop carriers did not and could not 
have guards, bases or repair units in Normandy 
for many weeks after NEPTUNE. The ground 
forces, hard put to it to sustain their fighting men, 
opposed the landing of any unessential personnel, 
and the few bases in the beachhead were jammed 
to capacity with fighters. Bad weather and the com- 
bat situation combined to delay recovery opera- 
tions until 23 June. After that, 15 gliders were 
picked up and flown back to England. The tech- 
nique worked well. However, 97 percent of the 
gliders used by American forces in Normandy had 
had to be left to rot." 

The status of the glider pilots after landing was 
anomalous. They were troop carrier personnel, 
and, while they had been given some training in 
infantry tactics, it had been short and relatively 
sketchy. Yet they constituted 20 percent of the 
approximately 5,000 men brought into the battle 
area by glider. Plans called for them to assist in 
the unloading of the gliders and the clearing of 

the landing areas, to assemble under the senior 
glider pilot in their vicinity, and to report to the 
headquarters of the airborne divisions for such 
duties as might be required of them. It was con- 
templated that they would guard command posts 
and prisoners until a firm link-up with the amphibi- 
ous forces was made and then be evacuated as soon 
as possible. 

A majority of the glider pilots followed this pat- 
tern, and on the whole did very well. About 300 
gathered at Raffs headquarters near les Forges 
and 270 of them were evacuated to the beaches on 
the afternoon of the 7th. About 170 others who 
had been guarding the headquarters and prisoners 
of the 82d Division west of Ste Mere Eglise de- 
parted for the beaches with 362 prisoners at noon 
on 8 June after General Ridgway had addressed 
them in a speech, later embodied in a commenda- 
tion, which thanked them warmly for their good 
service in Normandy. Most of the rest were col- 
lected and evacuated within three days after they 

While many glider pilots, particularly those 
landed in outlying areas, had attached themselves 
as individuals to airborne units and fought with 
them for a day or two, combat participation by 
the great majority was limited to a short period 

74 — Airborne Operations in World War II. European Theater 

The Assault 

Figure 8. Horsa Glider of IX Troop Carrier Command after Landing in Normandy. 

during unloading and assembly. There are few 
cases in which glider pilots were killed or wounded 
after leaving the vicinity of their gliders. 

Out of 1,030 American glider pilots reaching 
Normandy all but 197 had been accounted for by 
13 June. What had happened to most of those 
missing at that time is indicated by a rise in 
known casualties from 28 on 13 June to 147 on 
23 July. Of the latter total 25 were dead, 31 
wounded and 91 injured. An additional 33 who 
were still missing were probably prisoners. 

The discipline and ground combat training of 
the glider pilots were criticized by the airborne and 
by some of their own members. However, the 
policy of quick evacuation had worked well in 
Normandy and had won general acceptance. As 
long as it was assumed that glider pilots could and 
should be quickly evacuated there was no justifica- 
tion for giving them extensive infantry training. It 
seemed much more important to improve their pro- 
ficiency in tactical landings.- - " 

Parachute Resupp/y Missions 

Two large parachute resupply missions were 
flown on the morning of D plus 1. The first, 
FREEPORT, was performed by the 52d Wing 
for the 82d Division. It was a scheduled mission 

with the time of the initial drop set at 061 1. The 
other, MEMPHIS, conducted by the 50th Wing 
for the 101st Division, was set up to drop at 0635, 
but only if specifically called for. The formations 
and speeds to be flown in these missions were like 
those in the paratroop serials, except that speed 
during the drops would be 120 miles an hour 
instead of 1 10 miles an hour. The route was that 
taken by the daylight glider missions with ap- 
proach and return over the St. Marcouf Islands. 
The altitudes to be maintained were 1,500 feet 
over England, 1,000 feet over Portland Bill, 500 
feet to the drop zone, and beneath 500 feet from 
the zone back to GALLUP. If possible the zones 
were to be marked with panels, smoke and bea- 
cons, but it was understood these might not be 
available and that zones might have to be changed 
to suit the ground situation. 

Cargoes were to consist of 6 bundles in each _ 

plane and six more carried in pararacks in alj _ 
planes but those equipped with SCR-7)7. TFe 
normal load thus c arried was o nly slight l y over a_ 
ton, although a C-47 could carry almost three toj s. 
The difference lay in the need to get the cargo out 
within half a minute so that it would all land on the 
DZ. More might have been delivered had British 
roller coveyers been used, but the canvas covers of 
American containers were apt to jam the con- 

The Assault 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 75 

veyers, and a decision had been made in March 
not to use British wicker containers. 35 The 2d 
Quartermaster Depot Supply Company, a unit of 
IX Air Force Service Command, was supposed 
to manage the loading of planes for aerial resupply 
operations and to provide dropmasters to handle 
the actual dropping with the assistance of crew 
chiefs and radio operators. That company had 
neither enough men nor enough training to do the 
job. Made up of soldiers without previous experi- 
ence in supply work, it had received its first per- 
sonnel on 25 April. Although it had been exposed 
to a two-week course in aerial resupply, only 98 of 
its members had qualified as supply droppers and 
been placed on flying status in time for NEPTUNE. 

Under pressure of the supply needs of the air- 
borne troops FREEPORT had grown during May 
from a 1 85-plane mission to one of 196 and finally 
of 208 planes. These were drawn from the 61st, 
313th, 314th and 316th Groups, each of which 
contributed a 52-plane serial. The 82d Division 
had asked for 250 tons of supplies. Because some 
items were not obtainable the mission carried 
only 234 tons, about half of it ammunition, plus 
22 paratroops who had been brought back on the 
previous night. The lead serial carried 54 quar- 
termaster personnel to act as dropmasters. In the 
other formations the crew chief and radioman 
would have to shove out the bundles in the planes. 
As for the bundles in the pararacks, they would 
salvo like bombs at the touch of a switch, provid- 
, ing the mechanism worked. 

The first take-off was made by the 313th Group 
at 0310. The 316th Group was delayed for 15 
minutes when two of its planes collided as they 
taxied into position. Both aircraft were badly 
damaged and one pilot was killed. The other 206 
planes chosen for the mission all took off success- 
fully. Among them were 1 1 C-53's, although these 
had smaller doors than the C-47 and were not 
designed to carry cargo. 

There was no light of sun or moon to help the 
planes assemble, and layers of heavy cloud covered 
the sky, the lowest being considerably under 1,500 
feet. However, the layers were broken in places, 
and there was space enough between them at 
about the 1,500-foot level for the groups to form 
their serials. Having been assured at briefing that 
the weather, though unfavorable, would not re- 
quire instrument flying, the troop carriers set out 
boldly into the murk. 

Instead of improving as they proceeded, the 
weather grew rapidly worse. Over the route for 
most of the 120 miles between ATLANTA, the 
wing departure point, and ELKO, the command 
assembly point, hung a solid mass of clouds with 
bases as low as 300 feet and tops as high as 10,000 
feet. Icing conditions prevented flight over the 
clouds. Passage through the narrow crack between 
clouds and ground was hazardous, though many 
pilots tried it. Most flew into the clouds and at- 
tempted to continue individually on instruments. 
In spite of the Rebecca beacons along the course 
a majority of these pilots lost their way at least 
temporarily. Radio channels to the troop carrier 
CP at Eastcote were swamped by requests for 
information and instructions. Some planes, par- 
ticularly in the rear flights of the 316th Group 
turned back under orders. Others flew around 
until they ran short of fuel and had to land at 
fields in southern England. While some pilots took 
off to try again, at least 14 were refused permission 
to go on. In all, 51 planes failed to leave England 
and one bther crashed, killing everyone aboard, in 
an attempt to land at Oxford. 

Over southern England the weather was better, 
and over the channel there were only high scat- 
tered clouds, giving about % cover at 8,000 feet. 
Also, by the time the first planes reached Portland 
Bill the sun was rising. It was thus possible to 
re-form off the south coast. This was certainly 
done by most of the 61st Group and by portions 
of later serials. However, many pilots failed to 
recover contact with any large formation and went 
on alone or in small bunches. 

From England to Normandy the mission was 
given the same powerful escort and fighter cover 
as the daylight glider missions. No enemy planes 
attempted to penetrate this screen. One straggler 
in the 314th Group received a blast of antiaircraft 
fire from Allied shipping off the St. Marcouf 
Islands which induced him to give up and go home. 
A pilot in the 313th also reported naval fire, but 
it stopped when he signaled his identity. 

FREEPORT, like GALVESTON, made land- 
fall on the north side of the Douve estuary. There 
a perplexing discrepancy appeared. The orders 
and briefing of the pilots had called for a drop on 
DZ N, a mile north of Picauville on the west side 
of the Merderet. However, as the main body of 
the 61st Group approached the shore, it received 
the prescribed signals from a Eureka beacon near 

76 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Assault 

Ste Mere Eglise, IY2 miles northeast of DZ N. 
The 82d Division, cut off from its units on the 
west bank of the river, had ordered the beacon to 
go into action on DZ O. Apparently no smoke or 
panels were used. 

The 61st Group formation followed the radar 
signals to DZ O and dropped its bundles in that 
general vicinity at about 0603 from between 400 
and 600 feet. It reported that the dropmasters 
provided by the quartermaster company were for 
the most part awkward, timid, and airsick and of 
little help in kicking out the bundles.* 

After this initial drop the situation became 
chaotic. Stragglers and small groups, often drawn 
from several different flights kept arriving at irregu- 
lar intervals until 0815. A few of them received 
the radar signals and dropped their loads on or 
near DZ O. Elements of the 313th and 316th 
Groups totalling at least a dozen planes made their 
drops on LZ W. Nearly half the pilots followed 
their maps and their instructions to DZ N. Per- 
haps the objective seemed too obvious to require 
use of Rebecca; perhaps the policy of restricting 
the use of radar to serial and flight leaders was 
still exercising its baneful influence; certainly a 
four-man crew without a dropiiiaster to help them 
would be too busy preparing to dispose of their 
load to tinker with a Rebecca in the last minutes 
of their run unless it seemed necessary. 

In all, at least 148 planes dropped approxi- 
mately 156 tons of supplies. Since the Germans 
held DZ N and most of the territory west of the 
Merderet, very little of what was dropped beyond 
the river could be collected at that time, Less than 
100 tons were retrieved that day, and although 
ultimately about 140 tons were recovered, t the 
paratroops on D plus 2 were very short of food 
and ammunition and subsisted largely on a cap- 
tured trainload of cheese. 

The planes going to DZ O passed over the 
Germans in the Turqueville-Fauville pocket dur- 
ing their approach and swung over German-held 
territory west of the Merderet before completing 
their homeward turn. Those heading for DZ N 
had to fly for two or three miles over enemy posi- 

*There is very little evidence on the efficiency with which the 
supply dropping was conducted. One squadron reported that 
it took an average of 12 seconds per plane to get out its bundles. 
Others had trouble with bundles stuck in pararacks or jammed 
in doors, but the percentage not dropped for those reasons was 
very low, in the neighborhood of 1 percent. (CMR, Hq 48th 
TC Sq Mission "NEPTUNE" II, Resupply, 7 Jun 44, in unit 
hist file.) 

tProbably including some delivered in MEMPHIS. 

tions. This proved costly enough to show that 
those who had predicted heavy troop carrier losses 
in NEPTUNE were not mere alarmists. The Ger- 
mans put up only moderate small arms fire with 
little or no antiaircraft, but this was sufficient to 
bring down 10 planes. Among those attempting 
to use DZ N the loss rate was probably over 10 
percent. Of the downed aircraft, four crashed in 
Normandy, one was still missing a month later, 
and five were successfully ditched off the Nor- 
mandy coast. Only one casualty was caused by 
ditching, while aboard the crashed planes 1 1 troop 
carrier men were killed and the rest of their crews 
were hospitalized or missing. All of these planes 
appear to have dropped at least part of their car- 
goes; one, piloted by Capt. Howard W. Sass, was 
already ablaze when the bundles went out.* 

Of about 140 planes which got back after being 
in the drop area almost all reached their bases 
singularly or in small groups between 0815 and 
1050. Ninety-two were damaged, some very badly. 
Every squadron had its tale of hazardous returns. 
One aircraft, barely controllable and with one 
engine dead, had been coaxed back to Folkingham 
by way of the North Sea and the Wash so that it 
could ditch instantaneously if necessary. Between 
15 and 20 had made forced landings at Warmwell 
and other points in southern England. None of 
the damaged craft had to be salvaged, but many 
required several days' work by service units. At 
the end of the month casualties in FREEPORT 
were listed as 15 dead, 20 wounded and 17 miss- 
ing. It is not suprising that pilots reporting in 
after their return swore that second missions were 
jinxed. 30 

While MEMPHIS, the supply mission to the 
101st Division, was less costly than FREEPORT, 
it was even less successful. Why it was sent at all 
is a mystery. The Headquarters of the 101st Divi- 
sion had not called for it, did not expect it, and 
had set out no markers or beacons to guide it 
The. mission thus had two strikes on it from the 

MEMPHIS was to be flown by two serials, 
each of 63 aircraft, from the 440th and 442d 
Groups respectively. No facilities for air re-supply 
had been established at their bases, so the mission 
had to stage from Welford and Membury. The 

*Sass went down with his burning plane, was catapulted into 
a hedge when it crashed, and survived with comparatively 
minor injuries. 

The Assault 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 77 

planes were supposed to be there by 2130 on 
D-day for loading. The 440th began take-off from 
Exeter at 2020 and most of its aircraft reached 
Welford by 2130. The 442d did not depart from 
Fulbeck until about 2120, and sent only 56 planes. 
The 439th had sent six to Membury to complete 
the serial, but through some misunderstanding 
those planes had not come properly prepared and 
therefore could not go on the mission. Drop- 
masters from the quartermaster company took 
part in MEMPHIS, but the number involved is 

The 442d Group took off with 56 planes be- 
tween 0421 and 0428 in the dim twilight before 
dawn. The 440th, perhaps more confident of its 
ability to assemble quickly, did not take off until 
about 20 minutes later. One of its 63 planes 
aborted because of a flat tire and was not replaced. 
A substitute had been on hand when the group 
left Exeter, but none was ready at Welford. 

Fortunately for the 442d Group, the take-off 
bases lay south of the disturbance which upset 
FREEPORT, but the weather at the start was bad 
enough to make assembly difficult. An unbroken 
blanket of cloud covered the sky 1,500 feet up 
and northwest winds, blowing aloft at 27 miles an 
hour, drove rain squalls across the fields. How- 
ever, beyond Portland Bill weather ceased to be 
an obstacle. The overcast became thin and broken 
with bases above 2,500 feet, and the wind abated. 
Over Normandy the clouds lay lower and thicker, 
but not seriously so. 

The fighter protection over the Channel won, 
as in the other daylight missions, the enthusiastic 
admiration of the troop carriers. One pilot de- 
scribed his serial as surrounded above, below, and 
on all sides by fighters and declared that he had 
never seen so many at once as during that opera- 
tion. Oddly enough, the first loss was caused by 
a friendly plane. Near UTAH Beach a bomb- 
cluster, accidentally dropped by a P-47, hit a plane 
of the 440th Group and set off ammunition in its 
cargo. The pilot managed to ditch his plane, but 
the explosion had killed two crewmen, a drop- 
master, and a correspondent. Gunners on Allied 
ships off the St. Marcouf Islands fired at or near 
some planes in MEMPHIS, but briefly and with- 
out effect. 

The 440th Group dropped its load, 63 tons of 
ammunition, IOV2 tons of rations and 21 tons of 
combat equipment, between 0632 and 0639. Only 

one pararack pack and seven bundles, which had 
damaged chutes, were brought back. The 442d 
Group, which had carried 678 pararacks and bun- 
dles with a gross weight of 126 tons, dropped 652 
of them about 0638 from between 500 and 1,000 
feet. The rest had stuck or were damaged. One 
dangling parapack was pried loose by a crew 
chief hanging out of the plane with the radio 
operator holding his ankles. 

The supplies were supposed to land on LZ E 
near Hiesville, but Headquarters, 101st Division, 
located in that area, asserted that it saw no drop 
and recovered no bundles. The 442d Group re- 
ported that it deposited its cargoes near Blosville, 
IV2 miles west of Hiesville on LZ W. That zone, 
strewn with parachutes and gliders, would seem a 
logical objective to anxious pilots who had received 
no radar signals and seen no markers. The 82d 
Division, to which LZ W was assigned, presumably 
retrieved these supplies along with those dropped 
there about the same time by formations in FREE- 
PORT. The embattled paratroops were doing very 
little paper work that day and probably went on the 
principle of all supplies gratefully received and no 
questions asked. The 8th Infantry may also have 
taken a share. 

The course taken by the 440th Group is less 
certain, but most of its planes probably dropped 
between St. Come and la Barquette. Colonel John- 
son of the 501st PIR reported a supply drop in 
sight of his position at la Barquette about 0630. 
The drop was made some distance to the west of 
him, most of the bundles landing in no-man's land, 
behind the German lines, or in the Douve marshes. 
This in all likelihood was the work of the 440th 
Group. The group encountered heavy flak, of 
which there was hardly any north of St. Come, and 
the history of one of its squadrons, the 98th, refers 
explicitly to observations made in the Douve area. 
Flying in from the northeast over UTAH Beach, 
as it was supposed to do, the 440th had only to 
persist on course after passing LZ E to come 
• within sighting distance of the panels Johnson 
- had put out requesting supplies and had only to 
, veer a few degrees to the south to reach the Douve 
at the point where the drop was actually made. 
The failure to release the supplies over Johnson's 
position may be explained by assuming that the 
leader saw the panels too late to head directly over 
them and chose to drop west of the signals on his 
first run rather than make a second pass. 

78 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Assault 

Some planes in both groups may have dropped 
at other points, particularly northwest of Ste 
Mere Eglise near DZ O. Elements of the 440th 
reported picking up a Eureka signal and following 
it in, although it was poorly received. The only 
Eureka known to have been in operation at the 
time was that on DZ O to guide FREEPORT. 
Its signals would naturally have seemed poor, 
since the Rebecca sets of the 440th were tuned to a 
different channel. At DZ O, as at LZ W, such 
supplies as were dropped would have been picked 
up by the 8 2d Division and, if accounted for at all, 
would probably be credited to FREEPORT. 

MEMPHIS suffered much less from enemy ac- 
tion than its predecessor. Small arms fire at the 
442d Group just after it made its drop caused 
minor damage to 21 planes and wounded two 
men. As the 440th Group turned left after its 
drop, flak smashed engines on two planes, forcing 
them to ditch. Fourteen others in the serial were 
damaged, 1 1 of them severely enough to need 2d 
and 3d echelon repairs. Two men were wounded. 
The groups returned to their home bases, not those 
from which they had staged. The 440th, reached 
Exeter at or about 0828. All planes of the 442d 
except one, which had landed at Warmwell, were 
back at Fulbeck by 0905. 37 

The ineffectiveness of FREEPORT and MEM- 
PHIS was primarily due to lack of radio contact 
between the airborne commanders and IX TCC. 
With such contact MEMPHIS would either not 
have been sent or would have been given adequate 
instructions and a zone equipped with navigational 
aids. With such contact the pilots in FREEPORT 
would not have been dispatched to a zone which 
was wholly in enemy hands. The atrocious weather 
which broke up the formations in FREEPORT 
and forced a quarter of the pilots to turn back was 
pure bad luck. It was also fair warning that in 
Western Europe operations relying on aerial re- 
supply would have to gamble on the weather. The 
losses caused by enemy fire in FREEPORT were 
a reminder, if one were needed, that troop carrier 
formations were vulnerable and that passage over 
alerted enemy troops could be costly. 

By noon on 7 June all major airborne missions 
in NEPTUNE had been completed. However, six 
small parachute and glider resupply missions were 
flown later on call. All of them went smoothly 
without enemy opposition and without appreciable 
hindrance from weather. On the 8th a single air- 

craft of the 441st Group, staging from Greenham 
Common, took off at 0700 hours with 150 pounds 
of medical supplies for the 101st Division. Es- 
corted by four P-38's, it flew over the route used 
in HACKENSACK, made its drop, probably on 
LZ E, and returned unmolested. Next day two 
gliders with badly needed signal equipment landed 
successfully near Ste Mere Eglise about 1845. The 
recipient in this and the four following missions 
was the 82d Division. On the 10th the 436th 
Group dispatched six aircraft from Membury with 
Wacos. The gliders held 2 jeeps, 2 soldiers, and 
6V2 tons of combat equipment. Released at 1740 
near Ste Mere Eglise, they made excellent landings 
in the area designated. On 12 June nine planes of 
the 436th Group flew a paradrop re-supply mis- 
sion, carrying 2 tons of 60-mm. and 81-mm. 
mortars and 5 tons of ammunition stowed in 54 
parapacks and 25 bundles. At 0802 they made 
an accurate drop of all but one parapack from an 
altitude of 300 feet on a zone just east of Ste Mere 
Eglise. Five aircraft of that Group towed Waco 
gliders to the same zone that evening. Aboard the 
gliders were 2 jeeps and 42 airborne troops, and 
one of the planes carried 15 paratroops.* The 
gliders were released and the paratroops then 
jumped about 2021, all landing safely on the zone. 
The Germans, who still held positions within four 
miles of Ste Mere Eglise, responded to the landing 
by shelling the area. The last of these missions was 
flown on the 13th by 11 planes of the 436th 
Group. Escorted by 12 P-38's they towed 11 
Wacos to Ste Mere Eglise. The gliders contained 
IV2 tons of ammunition and 13 tons of equipment. 
Release was made at 1913 from a height of 600 
feet and the landings were thoroughly successful. 3 s 

The British Missions and 

The British airborne operations in NEPTUNE 
provide a useful, if imperfect, yardstick by which 
to rate American performance. Their paratroop 
missions were unquestionably more accurate than 
those of IX Troop Carrier Command, although 
their pathfinders had been rather less successful. 
One of their three zones was almost without path- 
finder aids because one team intended for it had 

*Such a dual role was unusual because paratroops preferred 
to jump from a tight formation rather than a long glider col- 
umn, and because of the restriction of gliders to follow-up 

The Assault 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 79 

been dropped out of reach and the other had lost 
its equipment. Another team inaccurately dropped 
set up its beacons on the wrong zone, two miles 
from its own. Nevertheless, in the main paratroop 
drop, which was to begin 0050 hours on D-day 
about 30 percent of the 237 pilots dispatched hit 
their zones, 25 percent came within a mile and 10 
percent dropped their sticks within two miles. Most 
of the drops farther away could be blamed on the 
lack or misplacing of pathfinder aids. On the one 
zone where the aids were wholly satisfactory at 
least 75 percent put their sticks within a one-mile 
radius, and the units dropped there mustered about 
60 percent of their strength in the initial assembly. 

This superior performance convinced the British 
that the American troop carrier tactic of flying in 
serials was inferior to their own method of indi- 
vidual navigation. The glider-towing planes of 38 
Group flew in loose pairs at 20-second intervals, 
and 46 Group flew in V's of three aircraft at 30- 
second intervals. General Browning was so sure 
that the technique of 38 Group was better that he 
recommended that IX TCC adopt it. 

Actually, the British had had certain advantages 
which made the comparison misleading. They 
encountered no serious cloud obstacle such as that 
which upset the American missions. Their drop 
zones, which they approached directly from the 
Channel coast, were respectively 2, 3, and 5 miles 
inland. Thus, although enemy fire was intense 
enough to bring down seven planes, a ratio com- 
parable to that in ALBANY and BOSTON, it had 
little time to affect navigation. Most important, 
all their planes had Gee and about 90 percent of 
the crews used it effectively. Rebecca was rele- 
gated to a supplementary role. The Americans 
simply did not have enough Gee sets to go around. 
If ALBANY and BOSTON had flown the British 
route, and if stragglers in those missions had had 
both Gee and Rebecca sets with qualified oper- 
ators and freedom to use them, IX TCC would 
certainly have made a much better showing than it 
did. However, it does seem that the American 
serials, even when accurately led and substantially 
intact, as in the drops of the 505th PIR, put more 
men outside a one-mile radius of their zone than 
did the British system of individual drops — pre- 
sumably because darkness and bad weather had 
loosened the formations. 

The British also flew glider missions before 
dawn on D-day, and in these, too, Gee served them 

well. Despite strong winds and low clouds which 
caused about 20 of the 98 gliders dispatched to 
break loose or be cast loose prematurely, they 
landed 52 on their zones and 6 more within a 
mile of them. Landing accidents were numerous, 
further proof of the costly nature of night glider 
operations. On the evening of D-day the British 
dispatched their main glider mission with 256 
Horsas and Hamilcars* in tow. Their landings, 
beginning at 2051, were highly successful. Only 
one or two gliders were shot down, and 246 landed 
on or very near their zones. However, the risk of 
antiaircraft fire in this twilight operation had been 
minimized, since by then the British had full pos- 
session of the terrain over which the approach was 
made and had pushed their front well beyond the 
landing zones. 

The only large British resupply drop was to be 
made by 50 planes of 46 Group at midnight of 
D-day. Once again, as in the invasion of Sicily, 
jittery naval gunners loosed a barrage on an air- 
borne mission with the result that six planes were 
lost and only 20 percent of the supplies dispatched 
were received by the airborne troops. Four small 
resupply missions flown in daylight by 38 Group 
were fairly successful, although in one of them 7 
out of 12 planes were recalled because of low 
clouds like those that forced recalls in FREE- 

One important respect in which the British 
pioneered was the dropping of heavy equipment. 
On D plus 4 they successfully dropped six 6- 
pounder guns and six jeeps into Normandy from 
the bomb bays of six Halifaxes flying at a height 
of 1,000 feet. Each item was packed in a protec- 
tive frame and provided with a cluster of twelve 
32-foot parachutes to cushion its descent. Only 
one jeep was damaged enough to be unserviceable. 
To understand what an advance this was, it should 
be observed that the Americans at that time were 
still breaking down their pack howitzer into seven 
bundles to get it out the door of the C-47. 39 

Another important airborne operation was 
planned but did not take place. After its missions 
with the 82d Division the 52d Wing had been 
held on the alert for missions with English troops. 
The British ground commanders asked for an 
operation called WILDOATS to achieve a break- 
through by dropping and landing the British First 

*The Hamilcars successfully brought in Tetrarch tanks, an 
item which would have been invaluable to the 82d Division. 

80 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

The Assault 

Airborne Division near Evrecy ahead of an at- 
tack by 7 Armored Division. The paratroops 
would be dropped by the 5 2d Wing, after which 
the glider echelon would be delivered by British 
troop carriers, assisted by the 435th, 438th, 440th 
and 441st Groups. Leigh-Mallory presided over 
a meeting at Stanmore on 1 1 June to consider this 
enterprise. There troop carrier and airborne rep- 
resentatives voiced strong objections to WILD- 
OATS. If flown in from the east coast of Nor- 
mandy it would go over the invasion fleets (the 
commander of which refused to prohibit antiair- 
craft fire during the missions), over the beachhead, 
and over the German front lines. An approach 
from the other side of the peninsula required a 
flight of more than 50 miles over enemy territory, 
much of it out of range of navigational aids. Dur- 
ing most of the night there would be no moon. By 
day the risks from enemy fire would be very great 
whatever the route. Nevertheless, the ground 
forces were so insistent that the critics reluctantly 
accepted the operation. 

WILDOATS was to be launched on 14 June 
with the first paratroops jumping at 0420. The 
gliders would follow close behind the jumpers and 
begin landing at 0530. The route, excepting cer- 
tain minor variations, ran from Portland Bill to a 
point off Cape Barfleur, thence to the St. Marcouf 
Islands and from there to Bayeux, the IP, which 
was about 16 miles north-northwest of the drop 
and landing zones. Return would be made by a 
reciprocal route. 

On 12 June wing commanders and key staff 
officers were briefed at Eastcote. On the 13th 
group commanders and staffs were briefed and the 
briefing of crews was begun. That very day, how- 
ever, a German armored division hurled back the 
British at Villers Bocage and took the initiative in 
that sector. Under those circumstances WILD- 
OATS would have been extremely dangerous. 
Accordingly it was postponed on the evening of 
the 13th and was formally cancelled on the 17th. 
This decision put an end to airborne operations 
in NEPTUNE. 40 


From Neptune to Market 

Organizational Changes 

THE INTERVAL of three months between 
NEPTUNE and MARKET, the next airborne 
operation in the European Theater, was marked 
by important organizational changes and by un- 
precedented fluctuations in the extent and char- 
acter of troop carrier utilization. 

The principal change was the creation of First 
Allied Airborne Army. Even before NEPTUNE 
was launched the British, who had set up a com- 
mand known as Headquarters Airborne Troops 
for their own airborne in 1943, had recommended 
the establishment of a headquarters to command 
all Allied airborne units in the Theater. This was 
not necessary in Normandy because British and 
American airborne operations there were separate. 
However, future operations involving several air- 
borne divisions of different nationalities might 
need central control. The British intimated that 
their existing airborne headquarters might well 
provide a commander and cadre for the one 

Eisenhower on 20 June approved the idea of a 
unified command for the airborne troops, but 
coupled with his approval a more sweeping pro- 
posal for a command which would control troop 
carriers as well. In this he was in accord with the 
ideas of General Marshall and General Arnold. 
The latter had written to Spaatz in December 1943 
urging that both airborne and troop carrier forces 
in England be placed under one headquarters for 
training and operations. He had favored placing 
such a command under the Ninth Air Force. 

Except for Leigh-Mallory, who favored an air- 
borne headquarters but argued that to place the 
troop carriers under its authority was unnecessary, 
inefficient, and contrary to the principle of unity of 

command for air forces, there was little opposition 
to Eisenhower's counterproposal. However, the 
British felt strongly that, whichever pattern was 
followed, their airborne commander, Lt. Gen. 
F.A.M. Browning, should be chosen to head the 
new command. The Americans, thought it proper 
to name an American, since they were contributing 
most of the troop carrier forces and a majority of 
the airborne, but they found it difficult to produce 
a candidate who was a match for Browning. Lieu- 
tenant generals with suitable experience were 
scarce indeed. Finally Eisenhower's choice fell on 
General Brereton. Although junior to Browning 
by a few months,* he had a length and variety of 
service unsurpassed in the AAF, had commanded 
air forces in the Far East, North Africa, and Eng- 
land, and as commander of the Ninth Air Force 
had acquired a working knowledge of IX Troop 
Carrier Command. On 16 July Brereton was in- 
formed that he had been nominated to command 
the new airborne-troop carrier organization. 

On 2 August he received notice of his appoint- 
ment from SHAEF and with it a personal note 
from Eisenhower asking him to pay particular 
attention to improving troop carrier navigation. 
That day Brig. Gen. Floyd L. Parks reported for 
duty as his Chief of Staff. Next day Brereton 
named Brig. Gen. Ralph S. Stearley as G-3, Oper- 
ations, and Brig. Gen. Stuart L. Cutler, formerly 
on the staff of First US Army Group, as Deputy 
C/S, Plans. On 4 August he accepted General 
Browning as his deputy commander. Also on the 
4th he obtained a loan of buildings formerly used 
by Headquarters, Ninth Air Force, at Sunnyhill 
Park near Ascot to house his new headquarters. 

*He was made lieutenant general in April 1944; Browning 
had held the rank since December 1943. 


82 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

From Neptune to Market 

On the 5th the embryonic organization was 
plunged into the planning of an operation. 1 

Not until 8 August did SHAEF officially an- 
nounce the establishment of Combined Airborne 
Headquarters with General Brereton in command. 
On 16 August this organization was redesignated 
First Allied Airborne Army. It was placed directly 
under SHAEF and was given command of all 
Allied airborne troops and operational control of 
British and American troop carriers. 

The principal functions of Airborne Army were 
to supervise training, prepare plans for airborne 
operations, including resupply, and control such 
operations until junction of the airborne with the 
ground forces. It was to prepare outline plans for 
airborne operations in conjunction with SHAEF, 
consult with the naval and air commanders-in- 
chief on matters touching them, and conduct de- 
tailed planning in conjunction with the ground 
force and air force commanders.- 

In practice, Airborne Army initiated planning 
in response to requests from the Army Group 
Commanders, Bradley and Montgomery,* without 
waiting for a SHAEF directive, and the staff of 
the army group sponsoring a given operation par- 
ticipated in formulating an outline plan or staff 
study for it. Not until the army group commander 
had approved this initial plan was detailed plan- 
ning undertaken. In some cases, notably BOXER 
and LINNET II, Brereton apparently called for 
preliminary planning on his own initiative. 3 

Airborne Army exercised command of the Brit- 
ish airborne troops through Headquarters, Air- 
borne Troops (subsequently redesignated 1 
Airborne Corps) under Browning and command 
of the American airborne through XVIII Airborne 
Corps, a new headquarters under the command of 
General Ridgway.f It took over operational control 
of IX TCC from AEAF despite spirited protests 
from Leigh-Mallory. Inclusion of 38 Group and 
46 Group was impeded by involvement of the 
former in special operations with resistance groups 
on the Continent and by the desire of the RAF to 
keep at least part of 46 Group for its own use in 
air supply. In this regard the RAF could point 
out that Ninth Air Force and USSTAF each had 

* Montgomery ceased to be ground commander-in-chief on 
1 August when 12th Army Group under Bradley took over 
control of the American armies from 21 Army Group. How- 
ever, he continued to exercise some authority over all ground 
operations as Eisenhower's deputy until the latter moved to 
France and on 1 September assumed the role of ground com- 
mander in addition to that of supreme commander. 

tGeneral Gavin succeeded Ridgway as commander of the 82d 

an American air transport group assigned to it 
and serving it almost exclusively. For these rea- 
sons the status of 38 Group and 46 Group was left 
open, and Airborne Army was only given control 
of "such Royal Air Force Troop Carrier forma- 
tions" as might be allocated to it "from time to 
time." Because of their ambiguous position, the 
British troop carriers were not at first represented 
on Brereton's staff. However, it was understood 
from the first that they would be needed for any 
big airborne operation, and they soon found them- 
selves in the inconvenient position of being com- 
mitted to operations in the initial planning of 
which they had not been represented. Therefore 
on 31 August the commander of 38 Group, AVM 
L. N. Hollinghurst, asked the inclusion of an RAF 
element in Brereton's headquarters. Brereton 
agreed; an organization plan was drafted on 6 
September; and the RAF side of the headquarters 
was officially formed on 13 September, thus cor- 
recting a situation which was certainly irregular 
and could have been dangerous.* 

Many subsequent headaches of Airborne Army 
arose from its acquisition on 16 August of an 
obscure little agency named the Combined Air 
Transport Operations Room and generally known 
as CATOR. This had been set up under AEAF at 
Stanmore on 1 June 1944 to serve as a central 
agency for air supply. Unfortunately, its only 
instrument for carrying supplies was IX TCC. 
Ninth Air Force and USSTAF kept their air trans- 
port groups, and when CATOR was transferred 
from AEAF to Airborne Army, the RAF, follow- 
ing their example, kept control of the supply 
activities of 46 Group. As for 38 Group, it was not 
included because, aside from its work in special 
operations, its converted bombers were ill-suited 
to supply work. 4 

As long as demands on CATOR were small, 
Airborne Army could almost always spare planes 
to satisfy them, but if heavy demands for air sup- 
ply coincided with requests for large-scale airborne 
operations, someone would have to be disap- 
pointed. The troop carriers could not do two 
things at once. 

On 25 August, as a sequel to the creation of 
Airborne Army, IX TCC was relieved from assign- 

*When MARKET was decided on Airborne Army had to 
request that 38 Group and 46 Group be allocated to it for that 
operation. (Ltr, Hq FAAA to Lt Gen F. A. M. Browning, 
subj: Task Force for Operation "MARKET," 11 Sep 44, in 

From Neptune to Market 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 83 

ment to Ninth Air Force and was placed under 
administrative control of USSTAF. As of 26 
August all the service units working for IX TCC, 
including the glider assembly workers at Crook- 
ham Common, were transferred from IX AFSC 
to the troop carrier command and were placed 
under a new organization, the IX Troop Carrier 
Service Wing (Provisional). The troop carriers 
probably benefitted in the long run by having 
direct control of their service units, but some mis- 
takes and confusion in the preparations for MAR- 
KET resulted from the fact that the new system 
was not yet well established. 5 

Another change was the transformation of the 
Pathfinder School on 14 September 1944 into the 
IX Troop Carrier Pathfinder Group (Provisional). 
Lieutenant Colonel Crouch continued in com- 
mand. The change reflected growing recognition 
of the value of pathfinder tactics in airborne mis- 
sions and also Crouch's conviction that the path- 
finders would be more efficient as an independent 
organization. 6 

A few significant changes were made in the staff 
of IX TCC during the summer. Lt. Col. Grant W. 
Ernst became A-2. Col. Glynne M. Jones took 
Fisher's place as A-3, and Lt. Col. Francis A. 
McBride succeeded Graham as A-4. The latter 
two new staff officers had served on Williams' staff 
in North Africa and Italy. Ernst and Colonel Duke, 
the Chief of Staff, were the only officers in major 
staff positions who were not veterans of the 
Mediterranean campaigns. One other notable 
event was the promotion of General Williams on 
26 August to the rank of major general. 7 

Plans and Operations During the 
Campaign in France 

Troop Carrier planning between NEPTUNE 
and MARKET falls into three phases, one of inac- 
tivity from 13 June to 29 July, one of readjustment 
to a rapidly changing situation between 29 July 
and 17 August, and a period of heavy and con- 
flicting commitments from 17 August to 17 

During the first stage, which began with the 
calling off of WILDOATS, the ground forces did 
not ask for airborne operations, and air supply 
was on a relatively small scale. Plans were con- 
ceived and elaborated at SHAEF and AEAF for 
combined airborne and amphibious operations in 

the Quiberon Bay area, at St. Malo, or at Brest to 
secure seaports. Since the allied armies were still 
being supplied over open beaches, even a small 
port was regarded as a great prize. Although 
outline plans were completed for the first two 
operations, HANDS UP and BENEFICIARY, 
the former was tabled, largely because of naval 
objections, and the latter was rejected on 15 July 
because St. Malo was too strongly defended. 
SWORDHILT, an attack on Brest, seemed more 
promising but was cancelled on 29 July as a result 
of the breakthrough at St. L6, which seemed to 
ensure the speedy capture of ports without the 
risks of an airborne venture. 8 

The only large airborne units available for mis- 
sions up to the end of July were the British First 
Airborne Division and a Polish airborne brigade, 
which was not fully trained. The consensus early 
in July was that none of the three airborne divi- 
sions committed in Normandy would be ready for 
another flight into battle until after at least 75 
days of training and refitting. The 101st Division 
had been kept in action until 27 June, the 82d 
until 8 July. As for the British Sixth Airborne 
Division, it was not relieved until 26 August. The 
American divisions recuperated sooner than ex- 
pected, but winter came before 6 Airborne was 
again fit for an airborne operation. 9 

A further reduction in airborne capabilities 
came when about a third of the American troop 
carriers were sent to the Mediterranean Theater 
at the request of the Allied Commander in that 
theater for an airborne operation in the invasion 
of southern France. 

In the middle of July 413 troop carrier planes 
left England for Italy, carrying with them a small 
staff, headed by General Williams, and 225 glider 
pilots. Another 375 glider pilots were flown there 
later. This force did not return until about the 
25th of August. While they were away IX TCC 
had at its disposal the 52d Wing and three pro- 
visional groups from the 50th and 53d Wings with 
about 870 planes. 10 

At first this reduced strength was more than 
enough to meet the supply needs of the ground 
forces. Half a million tons of supplies had been 
delivered to the Normandy beaches in June and 
vastly more during July, so much that large sur- 
pluses accumulated. As long as the front was, 
near the beaches the ground forces would have 
little need of air supply. At the same time, as long 

From Neptune to Market 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 85 

as the beachhead was small, they preferred to have 
its few airfields used by fighters and fighter-bomb- 
ers rather than by cargo planes. Two big supply 
missions were flown in June after storms halted 
the flow of seaborne supplies. Otherwise until 
August the American troop carriers usually flew 
less than 50 sorties a day to France to carry special 
items and to evacuate casualties. 

When the lull began General Williams had di- 
rected that the time be used for further training, 
but never at any time in the war did the troop 
carriers have less need or desire for training. In 
fact up to the end of July very little training was 
done. For six weeks the aircraft of IX TCC aver- 
aged less than an hour of flight per plane per day 
for all purposes. 11 

The American breakthrough at St. L6 trans- 
formed a stable situation into an extremely fluid 
one. By 30 July a gaping hole had been created 
in the German lines through which armored units 
drove to Avranches at the base of the Norman 
peninsula, 30 miles south of St. L6. From 
Avranches Lt. Gen. George Patton's Third Army 
swept southeast around the left flank of the Ger- 
man Seventh Army, covered 100 miles in a week, 
and reached Le Mans on 8 August. On the 6th 
SHAEF and Airborne Army, anticipating that this 
threat would soon force the Germans to retreat, 
agreed on an airborne operation called TRANS- 
FIGURE. At the outset Eisenhower was strongly 
in favor of this operation and is said to have called 
it the blow most likely to end the war in Europe. 

The purpose of TRANSFIGURE was to destroy 
a large part of the German Seventh Army by 
trapping it south of Paris. As Patton approached 
Orleans, airborne troops would spring the trap by 
blocking the roads over which the enemy intended 
to retreat. In its final form the plan called for para- 
chute and glider operations by the 101st Division 
near St. Arnoult-en-Yvelines and by the British 
First Airborne Division and the Polish Parachute 
Brigade in the vicinity of Rambouillet. By 13 
August the operation had been worked out, an,d 
the troops moved to the airfields. On the 15th 
General Brereton approved the plans in their final 
form, and field orders were cut. On the 16th 
almost every usable troop carrier plane was mar- 
shalled and ready. 12 

The operation was scheduled to take place on 
17 August, but swiftly as TRANSFIGURE had 
been prepared, Patton's tanks had moved faster. 

On the 16th one of his columns, far ahead of 
schedule, approached Rambouillet. Next morning 
TRANSFIGURE was postponed, and on the after- 
nobn of the 17th it was cancelled. For the next 
two days attention was given to alternative air- 
borne operations to take one or another of the 
Seine crossings, but on the 19th units of Third 
Army crossed the Seine near Mantes-Gassicourt, 
making these projects, too, obsolete. 13 

Meanwhile the headlong Allied advance had 
created a need for air supply so urgent that this 
task threatened to take priority even over airborne 
operations. Hitherto, the use of the troop carriers 
for other than high priority or emergency supply 
operations had hardly been considered. Apart from 
the fact that it had not been needed, it was very 
wasteful and could not in any case provide for 
more than a fraction of the Allied needs. A C-47 
carrying gasoline to France used about a gallon 
for every two gallons carried. Without forward 
bases on the Continent and with less than 900 
C-47's on hand the Troop Carrier Command could 
not possibly deliver to the advancing armies 
enough to keep five divisions in action at the ac- 
cepted consumption rate of 600 tons of supplies 
per division per day. Finally, embodied in man- 
uals and regulations was the rule that the primary 
mission of troop carrier units was to carry airborne 
troops in operations and training. 

However, the situation had become such that 
all supply to the forward divisions was emergency 
supply. The French railroads, shattered by sabo- 
tage and bombing, took many weeks to repair. 
Throughout August and early September the front 
was usually over 100 and occasionally over 200 
miles beyond the railheads. Truck transport could 
deliver no more than 7,000 tons a day to the 
Americans and perhaps 4,000 to the British. That 
was enough to sustain approximately 20 divisions, 
and the Germans were thought to have just about 
20 divisions left to hold their western front. In 
these circumstances air supply might provide the 
margin for a decisive thrust before the enemy 
could rally. 

Eisenhower, therefore, gave air supply prece- 
dence over training for airborne operations. On 
12 August SHAEF proposed a supply lift of 
1,000 tons a day, and on the 14th it raised the 
proposed quota to 2,000 tons a day. This would 
have required an all-out effort by IX TCC with 
everything it had and perhaps some help from 46 

86 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

From Neptune to Market 

Group. General Brereton accepted the 2,000 ton 
lift, but with qualifications intended to give IX 
TCC freedom of action. On 18 August, immedi- 
ately after TRANSFIGURE was cancelled, Brig. 
Gen. Harold L. Clark, who was commanding the 
troop carriers in Williams' absence, committed 
them to a lift of 750 tons a day to the Continent, 
a level which he believed compatible with adequate 
training. On 25 August SHAEF directed that 
after the return of the contingent in Italy, IX TCC 
should provide 400 planes a day for air supply. 
Protests by Airborne Army were met by the 
statement that General Bradley had to have the 
supplies and could get them in no other way. On 
4 September General Williams agreed to increase 
the supply lift to a level of 600 planes a day from 
IX TCC and the RAF pledged 30 a day from 46 
Group.* It was understood, however, that if orders 
were issued for an airborne mission, the planes 
needed for that mission would have to be grounded 
for servicing, loading, and marshalling. 

In the month between the cancellation of 
TRANSFIGURE and the launching of MARKET, 
IX TCC by an all-out effort under ideal conditions 
might have hauled about 80,000 tons of supplies to 
the front. Assuming there were no interruptions, 
it was pledged to haul nearly 40,000 tons. Actually 
it carried slightly over 20,000 tons. One school of 
thought blamed this result on the grounding of 
planes for projected airborne operations. How- 
ever, many other factors were involved. It is true 
that on each of 13 days a wing or more was 
grounded for that reason, but on four of those days 
the command met its supply obligations and on five 
other days weather would have grounded the bulk 
of the planes anyway. On nine days during that 
month the weather was generally unsatisfactory for 
supply nights to the Continent Another handicap 
which, although hard to measure, was certainly 
great, was the scarcity of forward airfields available 
for air supply. Because almost all good bases near 
the front were preempted by fighter and fighter- 
bomber units, the troop carriers were seldom able 
to use all the planes they had available and some- 
times had to stop the flow of supplies to certain 
sectors because they had no place to land them. 

*The Eighth Air Force also participated in the supply effort. 
Liberators of the Second Bombardment Wing hauled 1,900 
tons of freight between 29 August and 17 September. How- 
ever, the bombers had to be modified for supply work and 
could only land on good, hard-surfaced bases. (Hq IX TCC, 
Supply By Air, App A, Air Supply and Resupply By B-24 Air- 
craft, Nov 44, in 546.461.) 

Besides these major factors were a multitude of 
minor difficulties which sprang from the unprece- 
dented and unexpected size of the supply require- 
ments and the rapid advance of the armies. 
CATOR was at first somewhat inefficient in han- 
dling its huge new responsibilities. Ground force 
supply organizations sometimes delivered supplies 
late or to the wrong place, so that a mission had 
to be postponed for lack of a load. Some missions 
to captured enemy air bases had to be briefed 
from target folders and target books because no 
other data was yet available. Usually the destina- 
tion was a sod or dirt strip less than 4,000 feet 
long with a minimum of control and unloading 
facilities. The normal capacity of such strips when 
all went smoothly was between 36 and 72 planes 
an hour.* Unloading was done by whatever ground 
units happened to be available. Occasionally none 
showed up, and the crews unloaded their own 

Although the unstinted efforts of the troop car- 
rier men under such conditions won several com- 
mendations, some American ground commanders, 
seeking a scapegoat for their inability to get greater 
tonnage by air, felt that all troop carrier planes 
should have been withdrawn from airborne opera- 
tions and training and committed entirely to sup- 
ply. On the other hand, General Brereton felt 
that even the air supply effort actually made was 
an unwise diversion of his forces from their pri- 
mary mission. SHAEF alone could decide between 
the contending viewpoints, and on the whole its 
compromise course seems wise. The complete 
diversion of effort desired by the ground forces 
could not have increased supply deliveries appre- 
ciably unless the troop carrier units had either 
been given bases in France (as was finally done) 
or had been provided with more and better for- 
ward landing fields. In any case it seems unlikely 
that it would have produced enough tonnage to 
warrant the sacrifice of the airborne weapon. 14 

As Patton's men crossed the Seine on 19 August 
it was evident that the German armies in France 
were shattered and could make no effective stand 
short of the Siegfried Line in the east and the 
Rhine in the north. General Bradley recom- 
mended a drive eastward through the Siegfried 
Line. General Montgomery favored a thrust 

*In most cases nothing bigger than a C-47 could have been 
used. Even had the C-46 been available it would have bogged 
down on soft surfaces. Moreover, it stood so high that it 
could not be unloaded without special equipment. 

From Neptune to Market 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 87 

through the Low Countries and across the Phine 
onto the plains of northern Germany. This would 
breach the last possible barrier between the Allies 
and Berlin and would also help solve the supply 
problem through capture of the Channel ports and 
Antwerp. The transportation shortage made it 
impossible to deliver a major effort in both direc- 
tions at once. On 23 August Eisenhower approved 
Montgomery's proposal of a drive northward. It 
was to be made by the British 21 Army Group 
with the United States First Army on its right, 
while Third Army conducted a limited secondary 
offensive eastward to the Marne and farther if 
convenient. 15 

The first airborne operation considered for use 
in the northward drive was BOXER, a drop and 
landing about 30 miles inland from Boulogne to 
take that port and harass the German retreat. 
Approved by SHAEF on 24 August, it was turned 
down by 21 Army Group at a conference next day 
as an indecisive operation off the main line of 

At the same meeting General Brereton and 
Montgomery's chief of staff agreed on an operation 
in the Lille-Arras-Douai area directly ahead of 
the British thrust for the purpose of cutting off 
the retreating enemy. By the 26th, Airborne Army 
had picked Tournai and vicinity as objectives for 
the operation, which was christened LINNET. On 
the 27th preliminary instructions were given to 
the troop carrier and airborne commanders, and 
the troop carriers were relieved from supply opera- 
tions effective the 28th. On 29 August Airborne 
Army issued its outline plan, and both SHAEF 
and 21 Army Group approved 3 September as 
target date. On the 31st IX TCC issued its field 
order, arid the troops arrived at the airfields. By 
the evening of 2 September marshalling was 

Once again, however, the rapid advance of the 
ground forces forestalled an airborne venture. On 
the night of 2 September British and American 
troops met in Tournai, and at 2224 Montgomery's 
headquarters sent word that LINNET ' was 

LINNET would have been a major operation, 
carrying the 8 2d and 101st Divisions, the British 
1 Airborne, and the Polish Brigade. It seems 
questionable whether the results would have been 
worth the effort, even if the Allies had not been 
close to Tournai. It offered nothing decisive, 

nothing not quickly obtainable by ground action, 
only a few miles more ground, a few thousand 
more prisoners and an unimportant river crossing. 
Probably because of this, proposals had been 
made on 1 September that the operation be can- 
celled, and General Brereton had set about looking 
for an alternative. He found one and suggested 
it next day. 

On the afternoon of 2 September, foreseeing 
that LINNET would not take place, since stormy 
weather was predicted for 3 September, and the 
Allies would surely be in Tournai by the 4th, 
Brereton asked SHAEF to approve a substitute, 
LINNET II, to secure crossings over the Meuse 
north of Liege on 4 September. Eisenhower left 
the decision to Montgomery, who ruled against it, 
presumably because it lay on the path of an 
advance eastward through Aachen and the Sieg- 
fried Line, while his intention was to drive north 
across the Rhine. The verdict against LINNET II 
was telephoned to Airborne Army at 2125 on 3 
September and reached the troop carriers next 

Had the mission been flown on 4 September it 
might have been seriously disrupted for lack of 
maps, photographs and other information, which 
there was not time to obtain. General Browning 
was so agitated over the effect of these shortages 
on the airborne as to offer his resignation, though 
he later withdrew it. The troop carriers' attitude 
is unknown, but they might have had a hard time 
locating their zones, especially since navigational 
aids between England and the objective area 
would probably have been limited to one marker 
boat in the Channel. 16 

On the evening of 3 September, after cancelling 
LINNET II, Montgomery asked Airborne Army 
for an operation by the British 1 Airborne Divi- 
sion and the Polish Parachute Brigade to secure 
a crossing of the Rhine in the stretch between Arn- 
hem and Wesel on the afternoon of the 6th or 
the morning of the 7th. Next day Montgomery's 
staff selected Arnhem as the crossing point, largely 
because the flak around Wesel was considered 
prohibitively thick. 

Airborne Army began on the 4th to prepare for 
this operation, which was christened COMET. On 
the 6th troop carrier plans were substantially com- 
plete, except for the timing which was settled that 
afternoon in a conference at Stanmore. A coup 
de main party in 18 gliders was to seize the Arn- 

88 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

From Neptune to Market 

hem bridge at 0430 on 8 September. Pathfinder 
troops carried in 1 2 Stirlings were to begin drop- 
ping at 0645. At 0715 the main force would 
arrive, a column of 340 British gliders, towed by 
38 and 46 Groups, followed by 269 planes of the 
52d Wing with paratroops. In the afternoon, mis- 
sions would be flown by 320 British planes with 
gliders, 114 paratroop aircraft of the 52d Troop 
Carrier Wing, and 144 with supplies to drop. 
Next day, if feasible, 157 gliders towed by the 61st 
and 442d Groups would bring in the American 
878th Aviation Engineer Battalion to prepare an 
airfield on which the British 52 Light Division, 
which had been made air transportable, might 
be landed as reinforcements. 

The troops who were to take the bridge at 
Arnhem were to be flown in over a route very 
similar to the northern route later used in MAR- 
KET, to a drop zone and a landing zone five miles 
northwest of Arnhem which were practically iden- 
tical with zones used on MARKET. In these 
respects MARKET was simply COMET, slightly 
revised. The rest of the troops were to be flown 
over a more southern route to zones south of 
Nijmegen to take bridges over the Waal at Nij- 
megen and over the Maas at Grave. While these 
objectives were retained in MARKET, the plan- 
ning in relation to them was drastically changed. 

By 7 September COMET plans were complete 
and field orders were issued. The 52d Wing called 
in its group commanders and their staffs at 1300 
for briefing. However, storm warnings forced a 
24-hour postponement. On the 8th Montgomery 
got word that German resistance along the Albert' 
and Meuse-Escaut canals west of Antwerp was 
stiffening. He therefore asked another postpone- 
ment. Further news of effective German resistance 
and even counterattacks caused him to delay 
COMET again on the 9th and to cancel it on the 
10th. The Nijmegen- Arnhem area was more than 
50 miles behind the German front, and in between 
were seven canals and rivers at which the Germans 
might be able to hold. If they did so the predica- 
ment of the airborne would be very dangerous; 
just how dangerous, events were to show. 

Between 8 and 10 September Montgomery also 
considered an airborne operation against Wal- 
cheren Island to open the Scheldt, but Brereton 
rejected this, asserting that the terrain was very 
unsuitable and flak sure to be intense. 17 

The Planning of MARKET 

On the morning of 10 September General Eisen- 
hower flew to Brussels to confer with Montgomery 
on the strategy they would use in the coming 
weeks. In a stormy session aboard Eisenhower's 
plane Montgomery won his superior's approval 
for an expanded version of COMET. This opera- 
tion, MARKET, was to lay an airborne carpet, 
comprising not only the First Airborne Division 
and the Polish airborne but also the American 
8 2d and 101st Divisions, along the road to Arn- 
hem. To lift this force would require all available 
British and American troop carrier aircraft in a 
series of missions lasting at least two days. 

Montgomery also wanted ground operations 
outside Belgium brought to a standstill so that he 
could put maximum force into Operation GAR- 
DEN, a ground assault from his front along the 
Meuse-Escaut Canal up the Hasselt-Arnhem high- 
way. In this respect he got by no means all he 
desired, but on the 12th SHAEF did promise to 
divert to his service enough American trucks and 
planes to bring 1,000 tons a day to Brussels for 
GARDEN. Satisfied that this met his minimum 
requirements, Montgomery then set 17 September 
as D-day for MARKET-GARDEN. 18 

At 1430 on 10 September General Browning, 
who had just flown back to England with news of 
the Brussels conference, notified Airborne Army 
of the decision on MARKET. At 1800 General 
Brereton held a conference of his troop carrier 
and airborne commanders and their staffs* at 
Airborne Army Headquarters in Sunnyhill Park. 
There Browning sketched out Montgomery's con- 
ception of MARKET, and a short discussion was 
held on the main points of the operation. 

Before anything else could be settled, the ob- 
jectives had to be determined. The commanders 
agreed that the British and Polish airborne should 
be concentrated for the Arnhem assault, that the 
82d Division should take over the Nijmegen-Grave 
area, and that the 101st Division should seize 
crossings over the principal waterways south of 
Grave. This decision ensured that missions carry- 
ing the 82d Division from the Grantham area 
would not cross the path of missions bearing the 
101st from southern England. It also ensured 
that the less seasoned 101st would be the first to 
make contact with the Allied ground forces. 

*Except General Ridgway who was in France. 

From Neptune to Market 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 89 

Agreement as to just where and how the 101st 
was to be used was not so easy. Montgomery's 
proposal called for it to be strung out like a kite- 
string over a 30-mile stretch extending to within 
artillery range of the Second Army front. General 
Taylor protested against such extreme dispersion 
of his division and was strongly supported by 
Brereton. No decision on the matter was reached 
at the Sunnyhill Park meeting, but Brereton took 
the matter up with Montgomery, who agreed after 
a rather sharp exchange of views to let the matter 
be settled by direct discussion between General 
Taylor and Lt. Gen. Miles C. Dempsey, com- 
mander of the British Second Army. They met at 
Montgomery's headquarters on 12 September. 
Since both were good diplomats, and General 
Dempsey was confident that his army could slice 
through unaided as far as Eindhoven, they readily 
reached a solution. The 101st was to be responsi- 
ble for the crossings in a 16-mile area between 
Veghel and Eindhoven, and could postpone the 
taking of Eindhoven until two hours after its 
initial operations. Thus drops near Eindhoven 
would not be necessary, and the division could 
concentrate its drops and landings further north. 

Another basic decision made on 10 September 
was that the allocation of aircraft and bases for 
MARKET would be essentially that planned for 
LINNET.* This decision was adhered to, and 
comparison of the air movement tables for the 
two operations reveals that very little change was 
made in the paratroop serials, f In the glider serials 
the LINNET teaming of airborne and troop car- 
rier units was retained, but instead of towing two 
gliders apiece, as would have been done in the 
former operation, tug aircraft in MARKET were 
restricted to single-tow. This made it necessary 
to add a couple of glider serials to the original 
sequence and to schedule additional missions on 
D plus 2 and D plus 3 to bring in the displaced 
gliders. While it was difficult and hazardous for a 
C-47 to tow two Wacos at once, bad weather on 
D plus 2 was^to make the decision on single-tow 
a costly one^LAnother addition, obvious and in- 
evitable from the start, was a series of resupply 
missions on D plus 2 and thereafter. Unnecessary 
in LINNET, they were to play an important and 
tragic part in MARKET. 

The signal plan set up for LINNET was also 

*See above, p. 87. 

tThe 437th and 442d Groups did exchange assignments. 

adopted for MARKET and was later incorporated 
into the field orders with a minimum of change. 
One reason for this borrowing from previous plans 
was to save time. Unaware of the extent of Mont- 
gomery's supply difficulties, Brereton and his com- 
manders expected that MARKET might have to 
go as early as the 14th. The only way to do that 
was to make maximum use of existing arrange- 
ments. Similar use of plans for cancelled opera- 
tions had made possible the hasty launching of the 
Salerno missions in Italy. These cases indicate 
the possibility and value of having stand-by plans 
prepared for various sizes and types of airborne 
operation and adapting them to the needs of the 
moment instead of having to construct each new 
plan from the ground up. 

One limiting factor in the speed with which the 
operation could be launched was the need to 
secure and distribute photographic intelligence. 
In this instance General Brereton seems to have 
agreed that H-hour should not be less than 72 
hours after receipt of photographic coverage. 

During the meeting at Sunnyhill Park, Brereton 
named General Williams as air commander for 
MARKET with operational control not only of 
IX TCC but also of 38 Group, 46 Group, and 
such bomber aircraft as might be used for re- 
supply. He would exercise control through the 
Command Post at Eastcote. General Browning 
was designated as airborne commander. He was 
to be flown in by glider with a small staff to direct 
operations in the airhead until firm contact was 
made with the ground forces. 

Brereton also ruled that MARKET would be 
flown in daylight. This decision was bold, but not 
unprecedented. During the invasion of southern 
France Williams had sent in paratroop missions at 
dawn and gliders by daylight with negligible losses. 
COMET had all been planned as daylight opera- 
tions. In COMET, however, the decision had been 
made on the assumption that neither German fight- 
ers nor German antiaircraft could do the missions 
much harm. Intelligence estimates indicated that 
the Luftwaffe would not be a serious threat to 
MARKET, but that the flak around Arnhem was 
much more plentiful than when COMET was con- 
ceived and was increasing to the point where it 
might present a serious threat. 

Whatever the danger from flak, a night mission 
was virtually out of the question once D-day was 

90 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

From Neptune to Market 

set for 17 September, because that date fell at 
the dark of the moon. Postponement would not 
help, since on the following nights the moon 
would not rise until about dawn. Both doctrine 
and experience warned against attempting airborne 
missions in total darkness. The warning was rein- 
forced by the fact that the objectives in MARKET, 
deep in enemy territory, and some 200 miles from 
the nearest Gee chain, would be much more diffi- 
cult to locate by radar than those in Normandy 
had been. The question was whether flak could be 
avoided or neutralized sufficiently so that MAR- 
KET could be flown safely by day. Brereton with 
his exceptional experience in tactical air opera- 
tions judged that it could. 

On 12 or 13 September, H-hour, the moment 
when, the initial troop carrier serials, exclusive of 
pathfinders, would arrive over their zones, was set 
at 1300 hours, Zone A Time.* This timing gave 
ample opportunity for preliminary anti-flak opera- 
tions between dawn and H-hour. It was also con- 
sidered early enough to enable armored units of 
Second Army to begin their attack after H-hour 
and still make contact with the airborne troops in 
the Eindhoven area before sundown. 19 

The troop carrier and airborne staffs spent the 
night of 10 September in preparation for a con- 
ference at Eastcote at 0900 the next morning. 
The troop carrier wings were alerted that night 
and their commanders were summoned to Eastcote 
to attend the discussion. The principal items on 
the agenda were selection of routes, selection of 
zones, and preliminary decisions on the loading 
plan. Routes were worked out by a troop carrier 
planning committee and presented to the airborne 
for approval. Each airborne division selected 
drop and landing zones for itself and submitted 
them to the meeting for acceptance. Once routes 
and zones were chosen the conferees could proceed 
to the allocation of units to missions and of lift 
to troops, fundamental pairings on which detailed 
loading tables would later be based. Tentative 
decisions on all these matters had been made by 
the time the conference broke up at noon on the 
11th. However, major changes were made on 
the 12th and several minor ones were introduced 
later. 20 

The choice of routes lay between a northern 
course similar to one planned for COMET and a 

*This was one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. It 
came into effect at 0300 on the 17th. 

southern route across Belgium. The former tra- 
versed enemy territory for 80 miles, but it was 
almost straight and was believed to be relatively 
free from flak. The latter involved the shortest 
possible flight over enemy territory but would 
necessitate flying over the battle lines. The troop 
carriers favored the northern route because they 
feared the massed artillery of an active front. 
However, the final decision was to use both routes. 
Since the supply of fighter escorts was ample and 
the number of German fighters few, this dispersion 
would actually facilitate the defense of the mis- 
sions. Also the operation gained in flexibility. 
With maps on hand and navigational aids set up 
for two routes, it would be possible to shift from 
one to the other as circumstances dictated. All 
serials going to Arnhem and Nijmegen on D-day 
would use the northern route. Those for the 
Eindhoven area would take the southern route. 
Because their objectives were relatively near the 
Allied lines, use of that route would cut their 
time over enemy territory by more than half. 

A noteworthy innovation, planned for LINNET 
but first used in MARKET, was the massing of 
serials in three parallel lanes IV2 miles apart. The 
plan for MARKET did not call for simultaneous 
use of more than two of those lanes on a given 
route, but all could be used at once if need arose. 
In addition 38 Group and 46 Group were to fly 
gliders over the northern route at a level 1,000 
feet above the Americans, making that a four-lane 

Further concentration was achieved by spacing 
the American parachute serials at four-minute 
intervals and glider serials at seven-minute inter- 
vals instead of the six and ten-minute intervals 
prescribed by IX TCC in Normandy. This tighten- 
ing of the column was possible because MARKET 
was to be flown in daylight instead of darkness or 
twilight. By these means, the use of two routes, 
each with three or four lanes for traffic, and the 
closer spacing of serials, 1,055 planeloads of para- 
troops and 478 gliders were to be delivered in the 
initial lift within 65 minutes, the same time it took 
to bring in 369 sticks of paratroops for the 82d 
Division in NEPTUNE. 

The northern route began at the seaside town 
of Aldeburgh beside the Aide estuary, ran for 94 
miles straight across the North Sea to the west 
end of Schouwen Island, a distinctive landfall 

From Neptune to Market 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 91 

point, and on without turning for 18 miles to the 
eastern tip of the island. From there it ran for 
52 miles to the IP, which was christened ELLIS. 
This was about three miles south of 's Hertogen- 
bosch and could be readily identified by several 
highway intersections in its vicinity. It was about 
30 miles southwest of the zones in the Arnhem 
area, about 25 miles west-southwest of those in 
the Nijmegen section. The northernmost of the 
zones eventually selected in the Eindhoven sector 
was about 10 miles east-southeast of it. 

The southern route started at Bradwell Bay 
(ATTU) and cut across the Thames estuary for 34 
miles to the tip of the North Foreland. This in- 
volved a detour for the 53d Wing, but a more 
direct course would have brought the wing over 
the antiaircraft batteries and barrage balloons of 
the London metropolitan area and would have re- 
quired special permission. From the North Fore- 
land the route ran for 159 miles to the IP 
(DELOS), a point in Belgium where it crossed 
the Albert canal. The Eindhoven group of zones 
was slightly over 30 miles northeast of DELOS. 
An approach on this heading would cut neatly 
between known flak concentrations around Eind- 
hoven and Tilburg. On 16 September General 
Williams decided to bend the route slightly south- 
ward to avoid a pocket of German troops who 
were holding out south of the Scheldt. As revised 
it ran from CATALINA, a landfall point four 
miles northeast of Ostend, to the outskirts of 
Ghent airfield and from there to DELOS. 

After passing their zones the American troop 
carriers were to turn 180° to left or right, depend- 
ing on the position of the zone, and return by the 
way they had come. They were to fly at 1,500 feet 
on the trip out, descend to 500 feet to make their 
drop or release, and return at 3,000 feet to avoid 
the incoming traffic. American paratroop forma- 
tions would be the usual 9-plane V of V's in serials 
of from 27 to 45 planes. American glider forma- 
tions again would be columns made up of pairs of 
pairs in echelon to the right in serials of from 30 
to 50. British tow-planes and gliders would pro- 
ceed in a loose column of pairs at 10-second 
intervals, flying at 2,500 feet on the way to their 
zones, and returning at 5,000-7,000 feet. 21 

Selection of drop and landing zones was facili- 
tated by the previous planning for COMET and by 
the fact that the terrain was more favorable than 
that in the Normandy operations. In the north, 

especially around Arnhem, the land was rolling 
and in many places wooded. Between the Rhine 
and the Waal and everywhere in the Eindhoven 
sector it was flat, open, and interlaced with rivers, 
canals and ditches, which could shield the air- 
borne troops against attacks by enemy armor. 
Fields varied from very large to less than 200 
yards in length but were bordered by low, weak 
fences and small hedges instead of the formidable 
barriers encountered in the Cotentin. 

The great prize, the sine qua non of the whole 
enterprise, was the single-span steel bridge by 
which the highway running north from Hasselt 
crossed the Lower Rhine into the city of Arnhem. 
The river at that point was about a tenth of a mile 
across. The south side was low-lying and scantily 
settled. The north side was a thriving urban area, 
Arnhem being a modern city of over 100,000 per- 
sons with several good-sized suburbs. A second 
highway bridge into the city had been destroyed, 
but a railway bridge 2Vi miles east of the highway 
was still intact. At Heveadorp, a mile below the 
railroad bridge, there was a ferry. The Germans 
were known to have built a pontoon bridge near 
the highway. 

To take and hold one or more of these cross- 
ings was the task of the British First Airborne 
Division. Its initial paratroop drop was to be 
made in essentially the same place selected for 
the first paratroops in COMET. This zone, DZ X 
lay about six miles northwest of the center of 
Arnhem, north of the village of Heelsum, and just 
south of the Amsterdam- Arnhem railway.* It was 
an irregular area containing about a square mile. 
As in COMET the first British gliders were to 
land on LZ S, a narrow strip over a mile long 
and about half a mile wide, a little way northeast 
of DZ X and on the other side of the railroad. 
The next contingent of gliders, which in the 
COMET plan had been slated for the Nijmegen 
area, was now assigned a new zone, LZ Z, ad- 
joining DZ X and extending about half a mile 
east of it. All three zones were made up of fields, 
pasture and heath bordered by pine woods. 

While the zones were good enough in themselves 
and provided a tight initial concentration, they 
were all over five miles away from the highway 
bridge which was the chief objective of the troops. 
American airborne doctrine, confirmed by Allied 

*For British and Polish landing and drop zones see MaD 
No. 9, p. 113. 

From Neptune to Market 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 93 

experience in Normandy, held that this was too far. 
Precious time would be consumed merely in 
marching to the bridge. The risk of delay by 
roadblocks was great. In addition, part of the 
force would have to be left behind to hold zones 
for use by other missions on D plus 1. 

The British airborne staff officers were not un- 
aware of these handicaps but Maj. Gen. R. E. 
Urquhart, Commander of First Airborne Division, 
preferred good zones at a distance to bad zones 
near his objectives. North of the river there were 
no large open areas near the city, though some 
smaller ones might have been used. Dutch re- 
ports as to the topography of the south shore of 
the river were pessimistic, indicating that it was 
swampy, dissected by ditches, and easily swept by 
gun fire from the opposite bank. Moreover, the 
area was said to be subject to flooding, a most 
unpleasant possibility to men who remembered 
British and American drops into swamps in Nor- 
mandy. Another consideration was fear of anti- 
aircraft guns, great numbers of which were said 
to be massed near the bridge. Consequently no 
D-day drops or landings were to be made near 
Arnhem. The coup de main contemplated for 
COMET was abandoned, and nothing was put in 
its place. 

On D plus 1 a second installment of paratroops, 
originally slated in COMET for the Nijmegen 
area, were to drop on DZ Y, a splendid open quad- 
rangle containing well over a mile of ground but 
about eight miles away from the highway bridge. 
It lay north of the Amsterdam railway about a 
mile west of LZ S. Gliders that day would use 
DZ X as a landing zone, and supplies were to be 
dropped on DZ L, an area containing less than a 
square quarter-mile, located about half a mile 
east of LZ S. The success of this plan depended 
on maintaining fairly complete control over a 
strip of land 8 miles long and up to 3 miles in 
width extending from DZ Y to the bridge, a very 
large task for half an airborne division. 

On D plus 2 the outlying areas would be aban- 
doned to shorten the line of defense. The prin- 
cipal airborne operation, a drop by paratroops of 
the Polish Brigade, would be directed at DZ K, a 
circular zone three-quarters of a mile in di- 
ameter on the south side of the Rhine about a mile 
south of the highway bridge. Other troops and 
materiel of the brigade and of the American 878th 
Aviation Engineer Battalion would land by glider 

on DZ/LZ L.* If all went well the engineers were 
to prepare landing strips on which planes in subse- 
quent missions could air-land the British 52 Light 
Division. Supply drops on D plus 2. were to be 
made at Supply Drop Point (SDP) V, a quadrant 
containing about a quarter-mile of ground at a 
road junction less than a mile west of the outskirts 
of Arnhem. 22 

The 8 2d Division in contrast to the British, 
placed its zones on an average about a mile from 
its initial objectives.! Its staff spent the night of 
10-11 September selecting zones, and next morn- 
ing after discussion and some revision to meet 
troop carrier objections its choices were approved 
at the Eastcote meeting. 

The task of the 8 2d was to take and hold a 
bridge over the Maas outside the village of Grave 
five miles southwest of Nijmegen, at least one of 
four bridges over the Maas-Waal Canal between 
Grave and Nijmegen, and the bridge over the 
Waal at Nijmegen itself. Success in holding these 
crossings was dependent on possession of another 
objective, the Groesbeek heights, a ridge some 300 
feet high about two miles southeast of Nijmegen. 
This ridge was the only high ground for miles 
around and dominated the whole region. Nijmegen, 
a town of some 82,000 population on the south 
side of the Waal, was reported to have around it at 
least 22 heavy antiaircraft guns and 86 lighter 
pieces, and was thought likely to contain a large 
garrison. South of the town between the canal 
and the ridge the country was wooded, so drops 
to take objectives other than the Nijmegen bridge 
would have to be made west of the canal or south- 
east of the ridge. 

Units put down near Nijmegen on D-day might 
suffer heavily from flak on the way in, would be 
quickly engaged by fairly strong enemy forces, and 
would have to deal with those forces for many 
hours in isolation from the rest of the division. 
Furthermore, without the ridge and crossings over 
the Maas and the canal, the Nijmegen bridge 
would be worthless. General Gavin and his staff 
therefore determined to put first things first and 
leave Nijmegen to be taken by ground attack after 
the other objectives were secured. This decision 
was later confirmed in very explicit terms by 
General Browning. 

Gavin chose to bring in most of the division to 

*See the British and Polish assault area,, Map No. 9, p. 113. 
tSee the 82d Division assault area, Map No. 8, p. 108. 

94 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

From Neptune to Market 

a belt of drop and landing zones between 3 and 
4 miles southeast of Nijmegen on the far side of 
the Groesbeek heights so that he could attack the 
ridge as quickly as possible with maximum force 
and then set up a defensive perimeter including 
both ridge and zones. This seemed to minimize 
the risk of an enemy occupation of the landing 
area such as had happened in Normandy. 

At the northern end of the belt was DZ T, an 
oval 3,000 yards long from east to west and three- 
quarters of a mile wide, framed in a neat triangle 
by a railroad along its south side and by two 
roads which intersected at the village of Wyler a 
few hundred yards north of the zone. Approach- 
ing serials would pass close to the bridge at Grave 
about 7 miles short of the zone and over the Maas- 
Waal Canal about three miles before reaching 
the zone. Some 3,000 yards southwest of DZ T 
was a slightly smaller oval, DZ N, bordered on its 
western and northern sides by the woods of the 
Groesbeek ridge. The junction of the canal with 
the Maas river a mile and a half east of DZ N 
made an excellent landmark on the line of 

Between and overlapping both DZ's was a rough 
oblong averaging IVi miles from north to south 
and IV2 miles from east to west, which had been 
selected for glider landings. This was split into a 
northern half, LZ T and a southern half, LZ N. 
The latter had small fields averaging 200 yards in 
some sections. However, there were few high 
obstacles and the Germans did not seem to be 
erecting any. Experts calculated that by daylight 
the two zones could receive between 700 and 900 
gliders, all the 82d would need. LZ N was also 
selected as destination for parachute resupply mis- 
sions to the 82d Division. 

One regiment had to be put within striking 
distance of the bridge at Grave, and for this pur- 
pose DZ O, an oval drop zone over 1% miles long 
from west to east and almost a mile wide, was 
marked out on flat, open land astride the Eind- 
hoven-Nijmegen highway halfway between the 
Grave bridge and the Maas-Waal Canal. The 
troops dropped there were to attack both the Grave 
bridge a mile to their west and three bridges over 
the canal between one and two miles east of them. 
Gavin laid great stress on taking at least one bridge 
over the canal to ensure contact between this out- 
lying regiment and the main force in the Groesbeek 

area. He had a horror of having men cut off as 
Millett had been. 

Convinced that the big bridge at Grave would 
be defended and prepared for demolition, Colonel 
Reuben Tucker, commander of the 504th Para- 
chute Regiment, which was picked for the mission 
to DZ O, urged that the proper way to attack the 
structure was to drop men on the south bank of 
the Maas and rush the bridge from both ends. 
Just 36 hours before MARKET began, Tucker's 
proposal was accepted, and orders were given 
that a company of his paratroops be dropped on 
a special DZ on the south side of the river half a 
mile from the end of the bridge. The ground 
there was low, marshy, and heavily ditched, a bad 
drop zone, chosen deliberately to achieve quick 
access to the objective. 

One general point in regard to the zones of the 
82d Division is that the network of waterways, 
highways and railroads south of Nijmegen was 
particularly distinctive. If a pilot could come within 
sighting distance of Grave, he would have an 
abundance of landmarks thereafter. 23 

The 101st Division may have chosen the zones 
it wanted even before General Taylor's meeting 
with Dempsey. Certainly it had them ready for 
detailed description in field orders on 13 Septem- 
ber.* As redefined by Taylor and Dempsey the 
initial tasks of the division were to take a bridge 
over the Wilhelmina Canal at Zon five airline miles 
north of Eindhoven, a bridge over the Dommel 
River at St. Oedenrode four miles north of Zon, 
and four bridges over the Aa River and the Wil- 
lems Canal at Veghel, which was five miles north- 
east of St. Oedenrode and 13 miles southwest of 
Grave. After that, but before nightfall if possible, 
the 101st was to take Eindhoven and four bridges 
there over the upper Dommel. Of these objectives 
the two canal bridges were much the most im- 
portant, since the canals were 60 feet across and 
too deep for tanks; none of the rivers were over 
25 feet wide, and the Dommel at Eindhoven was 
a mere creek. 

Faced with the problem of taking objectives 
strung out over more than 15 miles of highway 
Taylor decided to bring in most of his division to 
a single area midway between St. Oedenrode and 
Zon from which he could strike quickly against 
both places and then move readily against Eind- 
hoven. Available for his purpose was a large open 

*See Map No. 7, p. 104. 

From Neptune to Market 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 95 

tract on the west side of the north-south highway 
about 1 V2 miles north of Zon. South of the open 
land lay a belt of woods, known as the Zonsche 
Forest, extending to the Wilhelmina Canal, which 
ran east and west from Zon. A road and a rail- 
road running northwest from Eindhoven crossed 
the canal about a mile southwest of the tract and 
a mile southeast of the little town of Best. 

On the open area the divisional staff marked 
out an oblong 4,000 yards long and 2,800 yards 
wide, which it split longitudinally into two equal 
drop zones, DZ's B and C. The long axes of 
these zones ran east-northeast. Troop carriers 
approaching them by the southern route would be 
on a heading of north-northeast. A landing zone, 
LZ W, was drawn to include most of the oblong 
but was slightly narrower from north to south and 
extended 1,000 yards further west. The zone 
was considered more than sufficient for 400 
gliders, and most of its fields were over 300 yards 
in length. 

One parachute regiment had to be dropped 
farther north for the taking of Veghel. The spot 
chosen for its jump was a potbellied oval, DZ A, 
which was about two miles long from east to west, 
up to 2,000 yards wide, and about a mile south- 
west of the town. North of the zone was a railroad 
running east to Veghel. Southeast of the zone was 
the Eindhoven-Arnhem highway. The bridges 
over the Willems Canal were only a few hundred 
yards northeast of DZ A, but the Aa River was a 
mile further on. Thus the paratroops would have 
to secure a crossing over the canal and move 
through a populated area before attacking the road 
and railway bridges over the river. This difficulty 
led to a change in plan similar to that initiated 
by Tucker at Grave. 

Lt. Col. W. O. Kinnard, a battalion commander, 
proposed that his unit be dropped north of the 
Willems Canal in position to move against the river 
bridges immediately after assembling. His idea 
was approved, and his battalion was given a new 
zone DZ A-l. This was a flat, open, area on the 
northeast side of the canal about a mile north of 
DZ A. 24 

Experience having indicated that bad naviga- 
tion was the factor most likely to spoil a troop 
carrier mission, the planners took care to provide 
navigational aids, even though MARKET was to 
be flown by day. Eureka beacons and M/F 
(CRN-4) beacons for use with radio compasses 

were placed at the wing assembly points, and 
Eurekas, M/F beacons, and the aerial lighthouses 
known as occults were put at the points of depar- 
ture from the British coast. 

About half way between England and the Con- 
tinent on both the northern and the southern route 
were stationed marker boats with Eureka beacons 
and green holophane lights. The boat on the 
northern route had been obtained for COMET, 
but the other had to be borrowed and put in 
position on short notice. Their code names were 
TAMPA and MIAMI. All the above beacons ex- 
cept the occults were operated by troop carrier 

No beacons were to be provided on the northern 
route between TAMPA and the zones because that 
150-mile stretch was all over water or enemy terri- 
tory. At first the southern route was similarly 
devoid of aids between marker boat and zones. 
However, at a meeting on 14 September between 
Williams, Hollinghurst, and representatives of 21 
Army Group and Second Army, the latter agreed 
that at a point near Gheel about 5,000 yards be- 
hind the front and about 3 miles north of DELOS 
CENTER their troops would set out a white panel 
T with head and stem 100 yards long and set 
yellow smoke generators at 100-yard intervals for 
500 yards beyond the tips of the T. The British 
soldiers were also to take such measures as they 
could to mark the front itself with fluorescent 
panels, yellow smoke generators, yellow celanese 
triangles and lights. By 16 September the troop 
carriers had arranged to mark the IP. DELOS 
was to have a Eureka beacon, a green holophane 
light and green smoke. 

The American planes in MARKET were all 
equipped with radio compasses and Rebecca. As 
in NEPTUNE, only flight leaders were to operate 
Rebecca. However, this time it was explicitly 
stated that if formations broke up, the lead ship 
in each element would operate its set. Enthusias- 
tic about the performance of Gee and SCR-717 
in NEPTUNE, IX TCC had asked on 18 June 
that half its aircraft be equipped with both SCR- 
717 and either Gee or Loran. Its request for 
SCR-717 was considered excessive, but its quota 
was raised to two and then three sets per squad- 
ron. The command had also won authorization 
to install Gee equipment on all its planes. How- 
ever, so long as a serial held together only its 

96 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

From Neptune to Market 

leader would have much occasion to use SCR-717 
or Gee. 

The planes of 38 and 46 Group were equipped 
with both Rebecca and Gee, and all crews were 
authorized to use them. Under the British system 
of flying in column the risk of interference was 
small enough to permit such general use of sets. 
The British did not have radio compasses or 
SCR-717. The bombers employed for resupply 
had radio compasses, but no Rebecca sets. 

Pathfinder assistance, though less needed than 
in a night operation, was not to be dispensed with. 
The Americans planned to employ six sticks of 
pathfinder troops. A pair of teams with one officer 
and nine enlisted men apiece were to be dropped 
on DZ's O, A, and B-C respectively. Each pair 
was to be responsible for setting up a Eureka, an 
M/F beacon, panel T's and letters and smoke 
signals. Each zone had its distinctive color com- 
bination of panels and smoke. At first the path- 
finder drop was scheduled for 1230, half an hour 
before the main force arrived, but on the 16th it 
was shifted to 1245. These changes represent a 
balancing of two considerations, the need of the 
pathfinders for enough time to begin operations 
before the other serials approached, and the fact 
that every extra minute given them was a minute 
more warning given the enemy, a minute more in 
which the isolated pathfinder troops might be 
attacked and destroyed. 

The smallness of the pathfinder effort was made 
possible by provisos that early serials for DZ's N 
and T would utilize the aids on DZ O, which lay 
almost on their line of approach, and that those 
bound for the two contiguous zones, B and C, 
would all rely on a single set of beacons and mark- 
ers. As soon as possible DZ's N and T were to 
be marked by paratroops with smoke signals, and 
if feasible, with panel T's in time for use of those 
aids by the glider serials. Likewise, DZ's B and 
C were to be distinguished as soon as possible by 
different smoke signals and colored panels. The 
transformation of zones B and C into LZ W was 
to be accomplished simply by recoding the two 
beacons from B to W and rearranging the panels 
there to form a W in place of a B. Since the path- 
finders could not carry enough equipment with 
them to operate for all the missions scheduled, 
additional equipment, mostly smoke and batteries 
was to be dropped onto LZ N and LZ W at 0630 
on D plus 1 from a single pathfinder plane. 

The British were to dispatch a dozen modified 
Stirling bombers of 38 Group to drop pathfinder 
teams 20 minutes before H-hour, half on DZ X 
and half on LZ S. The teams were to set up 
Eurekas, panel letters and smoke on both zones, 
put out a panel T on DZ X, and fire Very lights on 
LZ S. On the following days they would use the 
same set of aids on the other British zones, re- 
serving Very lights for landing zones and T's for 
drop zones and drop points. 25 

Protection of MARKET from friendly fire was 
simplified by the fact that there were no invasion 
convoys anywhere about. Absent, too, were their 
attendant swarms of fighters, and their absence 
left IFF channels open to troop carrier use. The 
field orders directed that in MARKET flight- 
leaders and stragglers should keep their IFF sets 
on. As further protection from naval antiaircraft, 
the Allied navies were given full information on 
the initial missions. However, in subsequent mis- 
sions some changes had to be made too late to get 
word to ships at sea. The principal risk of friendly 
fire came from front-line troops on the southern 
route, and on this point the British ground forces 
agreed on 14 September that no antiaircraft fire 
by day would be permitted during MARKET and 
that only such as was specially authorized would 
be allowed at night. 20 

Air support for MARKET was coordinated 
through AEAF Rear at Stanmore. On 11 Sep- 
tember Leigh-Mallory called representatives of all 
commands concerned to meet at Stanmore at 1600 
on the 12th to deal with the matter. Since prior 
discussions for LINNET and COMET had paved 
the way to agreement, the roles of the various air 
forces were quickly decided. Eighth Air Force 
and Air Defense of Great Britain would fly escort 
and cover for the missions and protect them from 
antiaircraft. If desired, Ninth Air Force would 
help with the latter task. Between missions the 
Second Tactical Air Force, RAF, whose planes 
lacked staying power for escort work, would pro- 
tect the airborne troops from enemy aircraft and 
be available for close support missions. At night 
Second TAF would be assisted by night fighters of 

Measures were also prescribed to neutralize in 
advance, as far as possible, those enemy flak bat- 
teries and air bases which were in a position to 
endanger MARKET. For this purpose Eighth 
Air Force was directed to reconnoiter the troop 

From Neptune to Market 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 97 

carrier routes to locate flak positions and to bom- 
bard those positions with its heavy bombers at the 
latest possible time before H-hour, and RAF 
Bomber Command was to attack enemy airfields 
on the night of D minus 1. 

Deception was not as much stressed as it had 
been in the Normandy missions, partly because 
the possibilities of surprise in daylight missions 
to objectives deep in enemy territory were rela- 
tively limited. However, RAF Coastal Command 
was requested to fly diversionary missions outside 
the Arnhem area, and Bomber Command was 
designated to make diversionary drops of dummy 

Tentative plans were also made for a resupply 
mission by about 250 heavy bombers of Eighth Air 
Force on D plus 1 . This was requested by the troop 
carriers to free their planes from resupply work 
in order that they might be devoted to bringing in 
more airborne troops. 

The decision to pick 17 September as D-day 
gave time for another meeting at Stanmore at 
1600 on 15 September to refine and revise sup- 
port plans. Arrangements were made on the 
assumption that both routes would be used on 
D-day. Escort and flak-suppression on the north- 
ern route between England and the IP was en- 
trusted to ADGB. Beyond the IP, Eighth Air 
Force would perform those tasks. On the southern 
route Eighth Air Force was to fly escort between 
the Belgian coast and the zones. It also agreed to 
provide perimeter patrols to intercept enemy air- 
aircraft approaching the MARKET area from the 
east or north. At the meeting, Airborne Army 
asked that four groups of fighter-bombers be pro- 
vided to neutralize flak and ground fire on the 
southern route between the IP and the DZ during 
the missions. That responsibility was given to 
Ninth Air Force, which apparently was not repre- 
sented at the meeting. Its operations section was 
first informed of the decision by phone from 
AEAF at 2020 on the night of the 15th. A great 
deal of preliminary notification on assignments in 
MARKET appears to have been done by tele- 
phone from Eastcote or Stanmore. 

Another request by Airborne Army was for 
rocket-firing aircraft to break up possible attacks 
on the 82d Division by tanks reported lurking in 
the Reichswald Forest, which lay two or three 
miles southeast of the zones of that division. On 
16 September Ninth Air Force was asked to pro- 

vide a group of rocket-equipped fighters, but it had 
only one squadron of such planes and was unable 
to make that available in time for use on D-day. 
However, the squadron was used later to good 

The meeting also specified the tasks to be per- 
formed before H-hour by Eighth Air Force and 
Bomber Command. The former was supposed to 
deal with German garrisons in Arnhem and 
Nijmegen but objected to employing its high-level, 
heavy-bomber formations over towns with friendly 
populations, so medium bombers of Second TAF 
were given the job of attacking German barracks 
in those towns on the morning of D-day. Either 
at the meeting or about the same time the details 
of the diversionary operations were specified. 
Dummy drops were to be made from 40 planes of 
Bomber Command on the night of D-day at points 
west of Utrecht, east of Arnhem and at Emmerich. 
The purpose was to delay, if only momentarily, 
the movement of German ground reinforcements 
from Holland and the Rhineland against the air- 
heads at Arnhem and Nijmegen. 

The resupply mission on D plus 1 was definitely 
to be undertaken by Eighth Air Force. Weather 
permitting, it would send 252 B-24's with turrets 
removed. 27 

Resources and Preparations 

Almost without exception the troop carrier units 
in MARKET had flown missions before, an ad- 
vantage which should not be underestimated. The 
Ninth Troop Carrier Command had the same 3 
wings, 14 groups, and pathfinder unit that it had 
had in NEPTUNE, and all wings and all groups 
but the 315th and 434th had participated in at 
least one other airborne operation, either in 1943 
or during the invasion of southern France. The 
British had in 38 Group the same 10 squadrons 
which they had used in June but had increased 46 
Group from 5 to 6 squadrons. 

In most cases the troop carriers were located at 
good bases, at which they were well established, 
and were teamed with troops which were stationed 
nearby and had flown with them before from those 
bases. The British had made no changes of station 
since June. Their squadrons were located in pairs 
at eight bases, six of which were bunched about 
80 miles west of London and 30 miles northwest 
of Greenham Common. The others, Keevil and 

98 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

From Neptune to Market 

Tarrant Rushton lay respectively 30 and 60 miles 
south of the rest. From these eight fields would 
fly the glider echelon of the British 1 Airborne 
Division, which had been in readiness with gliders 
loaded since the marshalling for LINNET on 2 

The 53d Wing and its groups still held the bases 
at and around Greenham Common that they had 
occupied during NEPTUNE. Once again they 
were to lift the 101st Division, which was in its 
old billets nearby. The 442d Group, which had 
been attached to the 52d Wing for COMET, was 
attached to the 53d Wing on 11 September for 
MARKET. The group moved that same day from 
Boreham to Chilbolton, a field 20 miles south of 
Greenham Common. Chilbolton had not hitherto 
been occupied by troop carriers, but the 442d had 
made large-scale supply flights from there on the 

The 52d Wing and its groups were on the same 
bases around Grantham which they had held since 
March. The only change needed was the addition 
of pierced steel plank for glider marshalling on 
muddy ground at Cottesmore, Fulbeck and Barks- 
ton Heath. Begun for LINNET, this work was 
completed in plenty of time. Besides carrying its 
old teammate and neighbor, the 82d Division, 
the wing was also to lift the British paratroops of 
First Division and the Polish Brigade. The 50th 
Wing was to assist it in carrying the American 

These assignments were essentially those made 
for LINNET, and the 50th Wing and the 439th, 
440th, and 441st Groups had been moved to 
Balderton, Fulbeck, and Langar in the Grantham 
area in preparation for that operation. However, 
on 8 September, they had been ordered to France 
to concentrate on air supply operations for the 
ground forces. By 10 September the air echelons 
of the 439th and 441st Groups and a detachment 
of wing headquarters were actually in operation in 
the Reims area,* and most of the wing's equipment 
and all its refueling units were either already in 
France or in transit to France. At 2330 on 10 
September the wing was alerted for MARKET 
and ordered to be at its LINNET bases ready to 
operate by 2400 on the 11th. The bases were 
then being closed out for release to the British. 
Strenuous efforts by supply and engineering offi- 

*Rear echelons of both the wing and its groups were still 
functioning at Exeter, Upottery, and Merryfield. 

cers of the wing and IX TCC set Balderton, Lan- 
gar, and Fulbeck functioning again and provided 
necessary unit equipment, including refueling units 
borrowed from the 52d Wing. The deadline was 
met, a remarkable achievement, but one for which 
the excellent communications and ample supplies 
in England should be given some credit. 

The pathfinders had moved early in September 
from North Witham to Chalgrove, which was 
about 20 miles north of Greenham Common. The 
change gave them a base of their own with climatic 
conditions better than those in the Grantham 
area. 2s 

The IX TCC went into MARKET with much 
the same resources it had had for NEPTUNE. 
Losses of aircraft and crews had been replaced, 
and on 16 September the command had 1,274 
operational aircraft and 1,284 assigned and avail- 
able crews. The British had 321 converted 
bombers in 38 Group and 164 Dakotas (C-47's) 
in 46 Group. 

The supply of gliders had increased despite the 
loss of almost all of those used in Normandy. On 
1 July IX TCC had had 1,045 operational Wacos. 
These were only enough to lift the glider echelon 
of one division, so on 8 August in anticipation of 
operations involving several divisions a new glider 
assembly program had been inaugurated at Crook- 
ham Common with the objective of producing at 
least 40 completed Wacos a day. This time IX 
AFSC employed 26 officers and over 900 men 
under direction of the 26th Mobile Repair and 
Reclamation Squadron. Well organized and ade- 
quately equipped, they proved capable of assem- 
bling 60 (and once even 100) gliders in a day. By 
the end of August IX TCC had 1,629 operational 
Wacos, and by 16 September it had 2,160 of them. 
Plans called for the employment of about 90 per- 
cent of these gliders in MARKET. The British 
had 812 Horsas, the Americans only 104 of them. 
However, the latter had acquired a distaste for the 
Horsa and did not intend to use it. In addition to 
its Horsas 38 Group possessed 64 of the huge 
Hamilcar gliders, which were capable of carrying 

About 1,900 American glider pilots were on 
hand at the end of August, but the arrival of 200 
more by air a few days later gave IX TCC a total 
of 2,060 on the eve of MARKET. Since General 
Williams and General Brereton had decided not to 
use co-pilots on American gliders, they had enough 

From Neptune to Market 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 99 

glider pilots for the proposed missions, but they 
would have virtually no reserves. 29 

As in June, the aircraft of IX TCC were without 
armor or self-sealing fuel tanks. The long struggle 
for safer fuel tanks had appeared to be won when, 
while in England on a tour of inspection in the 
latter part of June, Robert A. Lovett, Assistant 
Secretary of War for Air, promised that IX TCC 
would get at least enough for its pathfinders. How- 
ever, the tanks were then very scarce; AAF Head- 
quarters was unwilling to reallocate them; and the 
troop carriers got none. Some were shipped in 
September but did not arrive in time for 

Only about 400 of the Wacos had nose rein- 
forcements of either the Corey or the Griswold 
type, and only about 900 had parachute arresters. 
Large orders for arresters and protective noses 
had been sent to the United States long before 
MARKET, but delivery had been slow. One 
cause of delay had been disagreement and vacilla- 
tion in the United States as to which type of nose 
should be produced. 30 

MARKET is unique as the only large American 
airborne operation during World War II for which 
there was no training program, no rehearsal, 
almost no exercises, and a generally low level of 
tactical training activity. During the first two 
weeks of August intensive training had been re- 
sumed, and (counting that done by the units in 
Italy) there was more tactical training done in 
those two weeks than in all the rest of the summer. 
After that training declined sharply, and in Sep- 
tember it sank even lower. In the month before 
MARKET only two paratroop exercises, totalling 
288 sorties, were flown and no glider exercises at 
all. Less formal tactical training was also on a very 
low level. Only 306 airborne troops were carried 
during the two weeks before MARKET. Night 
flying training of all sorts generally amounted to 
less than an hour a week per pilot, and even day- 
light formation flying by more than a few planes 
at a time was a rare occurrence. 31 

Only half of the responsibility for this situation 
rests on the supply effort. Bad weather washed 
out some training and some was cancelled by 
alerts for airborne missions, but the constant ex- 
pectation of such missions seems to have been 
an even greater hindrance. From 12 August to 
17 September there were only five days on which 
FAAA did not believe that an airborne operation 

was just around the corner. This belief made 
training plans seem superfluous and realistic exer- 
cises a rash commitment. 

On 14 September the troop carrier units were 
alerted and restricted, and American airborne 
troops began moving into bivouac at the bases. 
Early in the evening on the 15th wing commanders 
and key members of their staffs were fully briefed 
at Eastcote. On their return that night they 
briefed the wing staffs and the group commanders. 
About the same time field orders for the operation 
arrived at the wings from troop carrier head- 
quarters. Early next morning rigid restrictions 
and security measures, such as had been in force 
before NEPTUNE, were imposed at all bases. 
During the day group staffs were briefed and wing 
and group field orders were issued. 

In the afternoon and evening of 16 September, 
D minus 1, the groups briefed their combat crews. 
The briefings were generally regarded as well or- 
ganized and comprehensive. However, detailed 
maps (1:50,000 and 1:25,000) were in such short 
supply that there were hardly enough for the group 
staffs, and as usual there was an acute lack of low- 
level photographs of the zones and run-in areas. 
The final briefings, held on the morning of the 
17th just before the crews went to their planes, 
were short and were concerned mainly with 
weather conditions. 32 

While General Brereton was the final judge of 
routes and timing for MARKET, the verdict really 
lay in the hands of the weathermen. It was a 
heavy responsibility, for weather in the North Sea 
area was notoriously changeable, and MARKET 
needed three days in a row of good flying weather 
to give it a reasonable chance of success. The 
evaluation was to be made by the Staff Weather 
Officer of IX TCC and the Senior Meteorological 
Officer of 38 Group, acting at Ascot as joint 
weather officers for Airborne Army. Besides IX 
TCC's own weather service, run by detachments of 
21 Weather Squadron, they could draw on all the 
extraordinary array of weather experts then gath- 
ered in the British Isles. They held two confer- 
ences a day with the long-range forecasters of 
USSTAF, the weather section of AEAF Rear at 
Stanmore, and the combined weather staffs of IX 
TCC and 38 Group at Eastcote. Meteorologists 
of several other commands were consulted from 
time to time. A constant informal exchange of 
information and opinions on changing conditions 

100 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

From Neptune to Market 

was maintained with the troop carrier weathermen 
at Eastcote. 

Every day at 1630 the weather officers of Air- 
borne Army issued a four-day forecast for use by 
the commanders and their operations staffs at 
Ascot and Eastcote. They also issued daily 24- 
hour forecasts which were sent to all troop carrier 
wings and groups by teletype or telephone. Actual 
conditions over Belgium were checked before each 
day's operations by three flights by planes of the 
325th Reconnaissance Wing of the Eighth Air 
Force, timed so that telephone reports could be 
made to Airborne Army and Eighth Air Force at 
H-8, H-6, and H-4. This was intended to prevent 
such unpleasant surprises as the cloud bank which 
upset operations in Normandy. 

At 1630 on 16 September (D minus 1) the 
experts delivered a favorable report on the coming 
four-day period. A high-pressure system was ap- 
proaching Belgium from the southwest and would 
be over it next day. Fair weather with little cloud 
and gentle winds would prevail until the 20th. 
The forecast did predict fog on and after D plus 
1, but only during the early morning. 

With auspices so favorable Brereton gave orders 
at 1900 hours that next day the airborne carpet 
would be laid along the road to Arnhem. As 
previously planned H-hour would be at 1300, the 
53d Wing mission to the Eindhoven area would 
take the southern route, and missions to Nijmegen 
and Arnhem would fly the northern route. 33 

Preliminary Support Operations 

Before the carpet could be laid, the ground had 
to be cleared. This work was begun by 282 RAF 
bombers which on the night of D minus 1 at- 
tacked airfields at Leeuwarden, Steewijk-Havelte, 
Hopsten, and Salzbergen within fighter range of 
MARKET objectives and formidable flak installa- 
tions around a bridge at Moerdijk which menaced 
planes flying the northern route. Though the 
bombers were shielded from enemy interceptors 
by six RAF planes and five from Eighth Air Force 
with radar jamming equipment, two were lost, 
presumably to flak or fighters. About 1,180 tons 
of bombs were dropped during the operation and 
the effects were considered generally good. 

On the morning of 17 September Eighth Air 

Force dispatched 872 B-17's to attack 117 installa- 
tions, mostly antiaircraft batteries, along the troop 
carrier routes. Scheduled to arrive at 0900, they 
were delayed for 30 minutes, but did their bomb- 
ing between 0930 and 1130 and were clear of the 
Continent before the troop carriers appeared. In 
order to cope with their obscure, small targets, 
they flew in formations of 4 or 6 and relied prin- 
cipally on 260-pound fragmentation bombs, which 
they dropped from altitudes of 10,000 to 22,000 
feet. All told, 852 bombers dropped 2,888 tons 
of fragmentation bombs and 29 tons of high ex- 
plosive. Analyses of the results indicated that 
about 45 percent of the bombs came within 1,000 
feet of their targets and that good results were 
achieved in 43 of the 117 cases. Visibility was 
good; no enemy planes appeared; and there was 
little flak except around Arnhem, where it was 
reported as moderate but inaccurate. Two bombers 
were brought down and 112 damaged, only four 
seriously. They had been given area support dur- 
ing the operation by 147 P-51's under MEW con- 
trol. One of these failed to return. 

Another operation that morning was an attack 
by 85 Lancasters and 15 Mosquitoes of the RAF, 
escorted by 53 Spitfires of ADGB, against coastal 
defenses on Walcheren Island. It was presumably 
intended to mislead the Germans into thinking 
that Walcheren, which lay between the two troop 
carrier routes, was the objective of the initial troop 
carrier missions. 

The last preliminary operation on the morning 
of the 1 7th was the dispatch of 50 Mosquitoes, 48 
Mitchells (British B-25's) and 24 Bostons (British 
A-20's) of Second TAF against German barracks 
at Nijmegen, at Arnhem, and at Ede ten miles 
northwest of Arnhem. Six Mosquitoes made low- 
level attacks on the barracks at Nijmegen with 
four tons of high explosive. Thirty-four Mosqui- 
toes dropped 27 tons of bombs on Arnhem at a 
price of three planes lost to flak. At Ede 30 
Mitchells and 13 Bostons bombed from medium 
altitude with 63 tons of high explosive. Because 
of cloud conditions and other difficulties 23 or 
more pilots returned without bombing and the 
remainder hit targets of opportunity. In retrospect 
it appears that these attacks on barracks did not 
have much effect on the enemy's power to resist. 34 


Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

THE COMPLEX COURSE of operations in 
MARKET can best be followed from day to 
day with the narrative for each day subdivided so 
as to treat separately the course of events in each 
of the three main battle areas, Eindhoven, Nij- 
megen, and Arnhem. Although the Arnhem area 
was primarily a British responsibility, operations 
there will be discussed in considerable detail, 
since they were decisive for the whole of MAR- 
KET, and since American troop carriers flew 
several of the Arnhem missions. 

D-day, The Pathfinders 

At 1025 on D-day the first pair of American 
pathfinder planes took off from Chalgrove, fol- 
lowed at ten-minute intervals by the other two 
pairs. A final briefing had been held at 0830 after 
which crews and troops reported to their planes. 
Both fliers and airborne had been working as 
teams for almost six months, and nearly all were 
veterans of the Normandy drops. They knew their 
business, and they knew each other. 

From Chalgrove the pathfinder serials flew east- 
ward to the coast and appear to have followed 
the southern route from there on. They had a 
P-47 escort over the Channel but none over the 
Continent. The pathfinders of the 82d Division, 
flying in the lead, had an easy trip as far as Grave 
where antiaircraft batteries opened up on them. 
They were under intense fire as they made their 
drop on DZ O, but fighters of the 78th Fighter 
Group, which were in the area on a flak-busting 
mission, dived on the guns and silenced them. The 
drop was made at 1247 from an altitude of 500 
feet. The two pathfinder teams landed side by side 
in open fields about 500 yards north of DZ O. 

While the second team stood guard, the first set 
up its equipment. Except for a sniper or two 
there was no resistance, and within three minutes 
the team had spread its panels and put both radar 
and radio beacons in operation. 

The pathfinders of the 101st Division had a 
harder time. Their two serials made landfall to- 
gether, but over the Belgian coast the rear pair 
circled to reestablish its time interval while the 
lead pair flew on to DZ A. Both pairs sighted the 
orange smoke set out near Gheel to mark the front, 
and both ran into heavy fire over the German lines. 
Evasive action being forbidden, all the pilots could 
do was to speed their lumbering planes to 180 
miles an hour. Near Ratie one of the pair bound 
for DZ A was hit in the left engine and wing tank 
and crashed in flames. The loss shows the par- 
ticular value of leakproof tanks in pathfinder work. 
Had anything happened to the other plane in that 
pair, DZ A would have gone unmarked. For- 
tunately the surviving craft flew safely and accu- 
rately to Veghel, sighted the railway which 
bounded the zone on the north, turned parallel to 
the tracks and made its run right over the zone. 
At 1247 it dropped its troops on DZ A from 
standard altitude at minimum speed. The para- 
troops met no resistance and were able to put the 
Eureka in operation in a minute and to lay out 
the panels in IVi minutes. They had trouble with 
the radio antenna but had that set working within 
five minutes. The smoke signals were not set off 
till the main serials were sighted. 

The pair of planes slated for DZ's B and C 
dropped their teams side by side with pinpoint 
accuracy at 1254. They had slowed to less than 
90 miles per hour for the jump, and the men 
landed so close together that no assembly was 


102 — airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

necessary. The Eureka was in action in less than 
a minute, and panels and radio were ready within 
four minutes. Although a few enemy troops were 
in the vicinity, they were readily disposed of with- 
out affecting the pathfinders' work. 1 

The 12 Stirlings of 38 Group which were to 
deliver British pathfinder teams to LZ S and DZ 
X took off from Fairford with six airborne officers 
and 180 enlisted men aboard. They located their 
zones without difficulty and made accurate drops 
about 1240. Some flak was met and one Stirling 
was damaged, but none of the troops were injured. 
Every stick was dropped successfully on its proper 
zone. The teams assembled quickly, accepted the 
surrender of 15 Germans, and had their equip- 
ment functioning several minutes before the main 
serials arrived. 2 

D-day, Operations in the 
Eindhoven Sector* 

Shortly after 1000 on the 17th, even before 
their pathfinders had left the ground, the forma- 
tions of the 53d Troop Carrier Wing which were 
to fly the paratroops of the 101st Division began 
taking off from their bases around Greenham Com- 
mon. Up to the previous day they had been slated 
to send 432 planes, but a late change reduced the 
total to 424 by eliminating 8 from the 435th 
Group. Aboard those 424 planes were 6,695 
paratroops of the 101st Division. 

Take-off and assembly went smoothly and 
swiftly. One serial of the 442d Group got its 45 
planes in the air in five minutes, and a quarter 
hour later swept over the field in formation on its 
way to Hatfield, the wing assembly point. The 
435th Group got a 32-plane serial into the air 
and into formation in 15 minutes. 

The weather was almost exactly as promised. 
Fog, present in the early morning, had cleared by 
0900. A little thin, low stratus persisted longer 
but had dissipated by take-off time. Over the 
channel the weather was excellent, and over Bel- 
gium and Holland it was generally good with 
visibility of from 3 to 7 miles. In places masses of 
cumulus clouds gave as much as % cover but, 
since their bases were at altitudes of 2,500 to 
3,000 feet, they presented no obstacle to the 

*For orientation in this Sector, refer to Map No. 7, p. 104. 

From Hatfield, where the serials swung into 
line at four-minute intervals in a column 80 miles 
long, the 53d Wing flew 49 miles to Bradwell; 
from there it proceeded over the revised southern 
route, including the detour to Ghent airport. 
DELOS was reached accurately and approxi- 
mately on schedule by means of visual navigation 
assisted by Rebecca and Gee. The Rebecca bea- 
cons at the turns and on the marker boat were 
received at distances of 30 and even 40 miles. Gee 
was used occasionally by formation leaders to 
check position, but there were some who reported 
it unusable because of jamming. The aids at the 
IP were not in operation in time for the first 
serials and perhaps not for any, but the T and 
yellow smoke set out near Gheel by the ground 
forces were clearly visible. 3 

From the time they arrived at the Belgian coast 
the troop carriers were given area cover by six 
groups of P-51's from Eighth Air Force. These 
flew in two layers, half at 2,500 feet and half at 
5,000 feet, flying lower in cloudy areas to keep 
below the cloud-base. To the east between Hasselt 
and Wesel a P-51 group, directed by MEW, was 
sweeping back and forth on perimeter patrol, and 
another was patrolling along a semicircular line 
between Wesel and the Zuider Zee.- No enemy 
aircraft came in sight of the troop carriers or their 
escorts. The only efforts by the Luftwaffe to pene- 
trate the MARKET area on D-day were met and 
turned back by the two groups on perimeter patrol. 
Pilots of the 4th Fighter Group, patrolling north- 
west of Wesel, intercepted 15 uncommonly aggres- 
sive and persistent FW-190's near Bocholt and 
claimed to have destroyed five of them and prob- 
ably a sixth while losing one plane. The 361st 
Group southwest of Wesel had a brush with 15 
ME-109's and shot down one. 

As had been expected, ground fire was a real 
danger to the missions and one which was difficult 
to eradicate. Flak suppression between the IP 
and the drop zones had been entrusted to two 
Ninth Air Force fighter groups with P-47's and 
two with P-38's. These planes were considered 
more suitable than the P-51 for anti-flak opera- 
tions because of their heavy striking power and 
their ability to take punishment. They carried two 
500-pound general purpose bombs apiece. 

A total of 142 fighter-bomber sorties were made. 
The four fighter groups arrived in the Eindhoven 
area at 1230, 1300, 1330 and 1350 and stayed 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 103 

slightly under an hour apiece.* Thus during the 
period of the main paratroop drop between 1300 
and 1340 there were generally two groups in 
action between the front and the drop zones. The 
474th Fighter Group, first to arrive, was much the 
most effective. It reported the destruction of 7 
gun positions and the probable destruction of 18 
more. The next two groups claimed only 9 
positions destroyed or silenced, and the last group 
arrived as the last troop carriers were leaving. 
Because of hazy weather, low clouds, and the in- 
conspicuousness of the targets, dive-bombing of 
antiaircraft guns was almost impossible. In fact 
any bombing was so difficult that the first three 
groups used only 61 bombs and relied largely on 
strafing. Two P-38's were reported shot down or 
missing. 4 

The troop carriers reported that the fighter- 
bombers had done an effective job against enemy 
positions in the open but achieved little in wooded 
areas. As the serials crossed the German lines near 
Rethy they were met with intense flak and small- 
arms fire. The 18 miles from Rethy to the Wilhel- 
mina Canal were fairly free of opposition, but 
several flak installations along the canal were still 
sending up moderate to intense fire as the first few 
serials went over. Intense and persistent flak came 
from the village of Best, a mile southwest of DZ's 
B and C, and from the woods surrounding the 
drop zones there was light flak and small arms 
fire which even the last serials rated as moderate 
to intense. After their drop the troop carriers 
made 360° left turns. These turns brought some 
of them over intense flak from the villages of 
Boxtel and Schijndel, causing a few losses and 
considerable damage. Probably the best measure 
of the work done by the flak-busters is that of 16 
planes destroyed on the mission only 2 came from 
the last four serials, although the number of planes 
damaged in those serials was greater than in the 
early ones. The inference is that, while small arms 
and machine-gun fire may actually have increased 
as the Germans mobilized their forces, most of the 
antiaircraft guns had been silenced. 

Besides the 16 troop carrier planes shot down, 
14 were badly damaged and 84 received moderate 
or light damage. Of the badly damaged aircraft, 
4 had to make emergency landings in Belgium, 

*Late in the afternoons the 365th Fighter Group made a 
sweep over the Eindhoven area in search of enemy planes re- 
ported there but found none. (Oprep 365th Ftr Gp, 17 Sep 
44, in unit hist file.) 

and several others barely reached England. The 
53d Wing had 26 men dead or missing and 15 
wounded or injured. 3 

This time enemy fire had almost no effect on 
the delivery of the paratroops. The formations 
held tightly together, and the pilots of the damaged 
planes coaxed them along with a skill and a cour- 
age which had the paratroops open-mouthed. One 
colonel was so absorbed in watching the struggle 
of a badly damaged plane to reach its zone that he 
almost forgot to jump. 

"Don't worry about me," the pilot of a burning 
plane* told his flight leader. "I'm going to drop 
these troops in the DZ." He kept his word — and 
crashed in flames immediately after the drop. At 
least three other pilots f stayed at the controls of 
burning aircraft and gave their lives to give their 
paratroops an accurate drop. Every one of the 
424 sticks was dropped, and, except for those of 
two planes shot down near Rethy, not one was 
dropped prematurely. 

The first three serials, 90 aircraft of the 434th 
Group and 45 from the 442d were to deliver the 
501st Parachute Regiment and a few other troops, 
about 2,050 in all, to DZ's A and A-l outside 
Veghel. They began their run-in at Oirchot on 
the Wilhelmina Canal about 12 miles southwest of 
the zones. The flak at Oirchot was particularly 
thick, which may account for the one bad drop 
given the 101st. The lead serial, which was carry- 
ing the 1st Battalion of the 501st to DZ A-l, 
swerved west of its true course and at 1301 drop- 
ped 42 sticks of troops in fields about three miles 
northwest of the zone. No pathfinders were slated 
to operate on DZ A-l, but it seems as though the 
Rebecca on DZ A should have shown the serial 
its error. 

The lapse in accuracy was offset by an excellent 
drop pattern. The battalion was able to assemble 
90 percent of its men and materiel inside 45 
minutes. It then marched down a straight, open 
road to Veghel, preceded by an advance guard in 
requisitioned trucks and on bicycles, overcame 
token resistance by about 30 rear-echelon troops, 
and by 1600 had taken its objectives, the two 
bridges over the Aa river just southeast of the 

The second serial dropped at 1306 in an excel- 

*2d Lt Herbert E. Shulman. 

tMaj Dan Elam, 1st Lt John Gurecki, 1st Lt Robert S. 
Stoddart, Jr. 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 105 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

lent pattern at the western end of DZ A, and at 
1311 the third serial put its troops in an equally 
fine pattern centered about 1,500 yards west of 
the zone. Three stragglers from the first serial also 
dropped near DZ A. The regiment assembled 95 
percent of its men and material in 45 minutes 
without any opposition and dispatched its bat- 
talions to their assigned objectives. By 1515 the 
2d Battalion had secured the road and railroad 
bridges over the Willems Canal and the 3d Bat- 
talion had taken Eeerde and set up positions south 
of the drop zone on the Eindhoven-Arnhem high- 
way. Within another hour contact was established 
with the 1st Battalion and Veghel was occupied. 
About 1800 the 3d Battalion made contact with 
patrols of the 502d PIR moving up from DZ C. 

The 501st PIR had taken all its D-day objec- 
tives intact and 32 prisoners besides at a cost of 
10 jump casualties and apparently no battle casual- 
ties. It was in touch with airborne units dropped 
south of it and had encountered very few of the 
enemy. No operation could have begun more 

The next three serials, 45 planes of the 442d 
Group and 90 from the 436th, were to deliver the 
506th PIR and a platoon of engineers, about 
2,200 men in all, to DZ B, the southern member 
of the pair of drop zones a mile northwest of 
Zon.* Except for one aircraft which was shot 
down early, those serials dropped their paratroops 
with great accuracy from tight formations at 1312, 
1315 and 1324. 

The regimental CP was set up at 1345, and 
within an hour after the jump assembly was 80 
percent complete. Only 24 men had been hurt in 
the drop. The journal of the 506th calls it "an 
ideal jump, better than any combat or practice 
jump [we] executed," and its after action report 
likewise described the drop as "the best the unit 
ever had." 

The 1st Battalion had the urgent task of taking 
the highway bridge and two small bridges over 
the canal at Zon before they could be blown up. 
Guided by experience in Normandy, it made a 
quick assembly on the south side of the DZ and 
started. Troops too late for the initial assembly 
formed groups of 15 to 25 under an officer and 
set out after the rest. Thus most of the unit was 

s The troop carriers called the southern zone B and the north- 
ern one C while the airborne sometimes reversed this usage 
(See Hq IX TCC, FO 4, 13 Sep 44 and Hq 101st Abn Div, Re- 
port on Operation MARKET, 12 Oct 44.) 

well on its way within 45 minutes. In hopes of 
taking the bridges by surprise the battalion moved 
due south through the woods from the drop zone 
to the canal and then turned left along the canal 
bank to Zon, but it was observed and its advance 
was halted by fire from two 88-mm. guns. 

The 2d Battalion, which was to assemble at the 
east end of the zone and advance down the high- 
way against Zon an hour after its jump with the 
rest of the regiment following, was half an hour 
late in getting started. It had lost some time be- 
cause of confusion with assembly signals of the 
502d PIR on the neighboring zone, and more in 
assisting the glider serial which landed after it and 
in waiting for its commanding officer, who was 
missing. The battalion met no opposition on the 
road. Of at least four German tanks which might 
have attacked it, Allied fighters had destroyed 
two and driven off the rest. The 2d Battalion like 
the 1st was held up temporarily by German fire in 
Zon. By 1600 resistance had been broken, but as 
the two battalions converged on the highway 
bridge it blew up in their faces. The other bridges 
had been destroyed a day or two before. Some 
paratroops swam across and secured the far side 
of the canal while engineers built a footbridge 
across it. This was ready by 1730 but was so 
small and weak that the 506th did not get com- 
pletely across until 0100 and then had to halt for 
the night about 1,500 yards south of the canal. 

The regiment had been supposed to take Eind- 
hoven and its bridges by 2000, but its inability to 
do so did not matter, since the British Guards 
Division which was to use those bridges had to 
stop for the night six miles short of them at Val- 
kenswaard. The division had jumped off at 1435 
behind a rolling barrage from 400 guns with close 
support from 100 Typhoons working in relays but 
had had to fight its way past anti-tank weapons 
set near the highway in swampy woods into which 
tanks could not go and pilots could not see. Some- 
how the Germans had gathered five battalions of 
tough troops to man those positions. 

In any case, the crossings at Eindhoven were not 
difficult. What was essential was to have a crossing 
over the wide Wilhelmina Canal ready for the 
British tanks. For that purpose the airborne en- 
gineers dropped with the 506th worked frantically 
all night on the center trestle of the Zon highway 
bridge, the piers and underpinnings of which for- 
tunately had not been much damaged by the blast. 7 

106 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater Market— The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

The last parachute serials flown by the 53d 
Wing were two of 36 and 28 planes respectively 
from the 435th Group and two of 45 each from 
the 438th Group bearing the 502d PIR, the ad- 
vance echelon of Divisional Headquarters, and a 
company of engineers, a total of 2,434 men, to be 
dropped on DZ C. The lead plane of the 435th 
was flown by Colonel Frank J. MacNees the 
Group Commander with General Taylor and the 
regimental commander as passengers. 

These serials kept the prescribed formation, 
route and timing all the way to the drop zone. 
When they were between 10 and 20 miles away 
they picked up the signals of the pathfinders' Eu- 
reka set. They reported seeing a B of white panels 
spread out on one of the zones but no T. As the 
first serial of the 435th approached the zone, the 
last serial of the 436th, slightly off course and four 
minutes late, cut across its path forcing it to climb 
to avoid a collision. As a result the 435th had to 
make a high drop from between 900 and 1,200 
feet. Otherwise the drops were orthodox and 
very successful. Between about 1324 and 1338 
the four serials dropped 2,391 of their paratroops 
on or very near DZ C. One stick had been dropped 
near Rethy when its plane was fatally hit, and 
another overshot slightly because a trooper was 
slow to jump. Ten men were returned for various 

The 502d Regiment considered its jump fully 
as good as that of the 506th. It was able to assem- 
ble within an hour. The 3d Battalion, which rated 
its drop as very good and its assembly as excellent, 
had gathered 85 percent of its strength by 1440. 

The function of the 502d PIR was to act as a 
connecting link between the 501st on the north 
and the 506th on the south and to act as divisional 
reserve. Its 1st Battalion marched north up the 
highway, easily captured St. Oedenrode, halfway 
between Zon and Veghel, and about nightfall 
made brief contact with the 501st north of St. 
Oederode. A bridge over the Dommel in the 
town was taken intact. 

One company of the 3d Battalion was sent to 
seize a bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal nearly 
a mile southwest of DZ C. It set out at 1440 
and took the bridge without much trouble, but 
German forces counterattacked out of Best, drove 
the paratroops from the bridge and almost cut 
them off. The rest of the battalion moved to their 
aid at 1845 but was engaged by an approximately 

equal force of Germans and had to dig in short of 
the bridge. The rest of the 502d Regiment spent 
the night near the drop zone. 8 

Following the paratroop formations to the Zon 
area came two serials from the 437th Group with 
35 planes apiece towing Waco gliders. The gliders 
contained 43 jeeps, 18 trailers, and 311 airborne 
troops, mainly from the 101st Division's signal 
company and reconnaissance platoon plus some 
headquarters, artillery and medical personnel, and 
a Phantom* detachment. The large number of 
vehicles and the complete lack of artillery pieces 
shows that the 101st expected to need mobility 
more than firepower. Also, its planners had sup- 
posed that British artillery would very quickly 
come within supporting distance. 

Three of the gliders aborted over England; one 
ditched safely in the Channel; and two broke loose 
or were released over friendly Belgium. The Ger- 
mans, who found the glider formations a splendid 
target, brought down 6 of the 64 planes which 
crossed their lines and damaged 46 more, 6 so 
badly they were fit for nothing but salvage. The 
troop carriers had 18 men missing and 3 wounded. 
Aircraft losses of 9 percent (19 percent counting 
salvaged planes) and a damage rate of 70 percent 
contrast painfully with the corresponding ratios of 
4 and 23 percent in the paratroop serials. Glider 
missions had flown in daylight with impunity on 
D plus 1 in NEPTUNE and in the invasion of 
southern France. MARKET was a different story. 

Seven gliders came down between the IP and 
LZ W. At least three and perhaps five of these 
premature releases were made because the tug 
plane was hit and about to crash. One of the seven 
gliders plummeted into the ground; one was unac- 
counted for. The rest landed safely and all the 
men and materiel aboard them reached the division 
in a day or two with the help of friendly Belgians. 

The first serial released its gliders at 1348, and 
the second did so at 1355. Three Wacos, two of 
which had collided in flight, crashlanded on the 
zone, killing a pilot, injuring five men, and damag- 
ing the cargoes. The remaining 53 gliders found 
ample room on the zone and landed safely with 
252 troops, 32 jeeps and 13 trailers. In one in- 
stance a soldier took the controls after the pilot 
was wounded and steered the glider down. The 
glider operation had been costly, but it had suc- 
cessfully delivered to the landing zone about 80 

♦British liaison and combat communications unit. 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 107 

Market— The Airbo rne Invasion of Holland 

percent of the personnel and about 75 percent of 
the heavy equipment and vehicles carried. 9 

D-day, Operations in the 
Nijmegen Sector* 

The mission bearing the paratroops of the 82d 
Division began its take-offs at 1019 on the 17th. 
Six groups of the 52d and 50th Wings based in 
the Grantham area contributed 480 planes organ- 
ized in 11 serials. Aboard the aircraft were about 
7,250 paratroops. Take-off and assembly went 
smoothly and without serious mishaps, although 
one soldier went violently insane after take-off and 
had to be landed. The 313th Group put its planes 
in the air at five-second intervals and the rest 
likewise did well. 

That part of England was enjoying a warm, hazy 
autumn morning. Only at Langar did weather 
present any difficulties. There, overcast forced the 
441st Group to climb above 2,500 feet before 
assembling. Along the route, cloud cover varied 
from % to % with the base of the clouds be- 
tween 2,000 and 3,000 feet, and there was a 
slight haze, thickest at the Dutch coast, where it 
limited visibility to three or four miles. Conditions 
at the destination were favorable with cloud bases 
above 2,500 feet and visibility of seven miles or 

After reassembling over the bases the serials 
flew to March, the assembly point, and swung into 
line at the appointed intervals. From March they 
proceeded for 71 miles to Aldeburgh, the starting 
point on the northern route, and over that route 
to the IP south of 's Hertogenbosch. The Eurekas 
in England and on the marker boat worked well, 
and so did the Gee sets of the leaders. All of the 
480 planes made an accurate landfall on Schouwen 
Island. 10 

Besides the perimeter patrols, which protected 
both routes, the northern route had heavy pro- 
tection of its own. Escort and area cover from 
England to the IP was provided by 18 squadrons 
of Spitfires from ADGB. Between the IP and the 
Nijmegen area two P-51 groups sent by Eighth 
Air Force handled cover and escort duties, using 
the same tactics as the groups on the southern 
route. Although a few enemy planes were sighted, 
no air action occurred. 

*For orientation in this Sector, refer to Map No. 8, p. 108. 

Flak suppression from the coast to the IP was 
in the hands of eight Tempest, three Mustang, and 
two Spitfire squadrons of ADGB, all of which did 
an excellent job. One Mustang was lost during 
sweeps against armed barges, pillboxes, and bat- 
teries. Beyond the IP the Nijmegen column had 
only the 78th Fighter Group of the Eighth Air 
Force with 50 P-47's to sweep flak out of its path. 
This group went into action about half an hour 
before the troop carriers arrived. By flying low to 
draw antiaircraft fire and then strafing and dive- 
bombing, it knocked out an estimated eight guns 
and silenced six more. It also hit other targets in- 
cluding a flak barge and a Messerschmitt on the 
ground at Gilze-Rijn. Most of this work was done 
in 15 minutes. Then the Nazi gunners stopped 
firing. Unable to find targets, the 78th flew out to 
meet the troop carrier formations near the IP and 
accompanied them to the drop zones. The group 
lost one plane and had a dozen damaged during its 
mission. 11 

The troop carriers had a quiet trip until they 
reached Grave. The route proved to have been 
well-chosen, and effective preliminary bombing 
combined with splendid work by the flak-busters 
to reduce ground fire over most of the route to a 
negligible quantity. However, one plane was shot 
down and a few damaged by gunners near Zeven- 
bergen and Oosterhout. As the mission neared 
its drop zones enemy fire began to thicken. The 
most intense and accurate light flak and small arms 
fire came up from bridges and wooded areas, es- 
pecially the Reichswald Forest, over which passed 
the eight serials which made left turns after com- 
pleting their drops. One plane crashed and another 
crash-landed shortly before reaching their zones, 
but all their troops had been able to jump. Soon 
after leaving DZ T four more were shot down by 
guns near that zone or in the Reichswald. On the 
way back two aircraft went down over Holland 
and one had to ditch, but two of these losses were 
caused primarily by collision rather than by flak. 
All aboard the ditched plane were rescued, and 
15 other troop carrier men landed or parachuted 
safely and reached the Allied lines. Most spec- 
tacular was the case of Lt. Col. Frank X. Krebs, 
commander of the 440th Group. He and his crew 
got back after being hidden for more than a month 
by the Dutch underground. Total losses in the 
mission were 10 planes destroyed and 25 troop 
carrier men dead or still missing at the end of 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 109 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

October. Six men were wounded or injured and 
118 planes were damaged, about 20 badly enough 
to require salvage or lengthy repairs. About 80 
percent of the damage was concentrated in three 
serials which dropped on DZ T, evidence that the 
area around that zone was the most hazardous 
traversed on the mission. 12 

The first drops were to be made on DZ N by 
two 45-plane serials of the 313th Group and one 
of the same size from the 316th Group. Aboard 
them were 2,281 paratroops of which 2,151 were 
from the 505th PIR, and in their pararacks were 
756 containers with 70 tons of supplies and equip- 
ment. In accordance with plan, DZ N and DZ 
T were unmarked, but the pathfinders had their 
beacons and signals in full operation on DZ O. 

Through an error in marshalling the 313th 
Group's second serial had exchanged places with 
the first. This formation, accidentally in the lead, 
appears to have sighted the smoke and panels on 
DZ O. Nevertheless, it swerved north of course 
and under intense fire dropped almost all of the 
second battalion of the 505th between IV2 and 3 
miles northeast of DZ N.* Only six pilots carrying 
regimental headquarters and signal men did locate 
their zone and drop their troops on or near it. 
This performance in broad daylight shows the folly 
of economizing on pathfinders. Had radar and 
visual aids been functioning on DZ N such a mis- 
take could hardly have happened. 

The first seven planes in the 313th Group's 
other serial followed the lead of their predecessors 
and dropped half of regimental headquarters be- 
tween two and three miles north of DZ N at 1308. 
The rest, carrying the 3d Battalion, gave it an 
excellent drop. The third serial, which brought 
Division Headquarters and the 1st Battalion of 
the 505th, had gotten so far south of its course 
that it actually passed over the lead serial of the 
53d Wing while the latter was making its drop 
nothwest of Veghel. It quickly reoriented itself 
and by careful observation of landmarks achieved 
a perfect drop on DZ N at 1312. 

The 2d Battalion of the 505th was supposed to 
occupy the west side of the regiment's perimeter, 
make contact with the 504th along the Maas-Waal 
Canal, reconnoiter a railroad bridge over the Maas 
between Molenhoek and Mook, and occupy high 

*Probably because of this heavy fire the drop was made 
from between 800 and 900 feet above sea level instead of about 
600 feet as specified in the orders. 

ground west of Groesbeek. Although their drop 
was neither accurate nor compact, most of the 
battalion had come down fairly close together near 
the village of Kamp about a mile northeast of 
Groesbeek. Using an observatory as a rallying 
point, they assembled a strong nucleus within half 
an hour and at 1415 set out to take their objec- 
tives. Against feeble opposition they pushed 
through the northern part of Groesbeek and seized 
the hill beyond it without a struggle at 1545. 

The battalion then sent a strong patrol south to 
the railway bridge, which it found destroyed. Two 
patrols were dispatched westward to the canal to 
make contact with the 504th. At 1930 one of these 
reached Bridge 8 over the canal near Maiden. 
The bridge had been blown, but the men could 
see elements of the 504th on the far side. At 2100 
the other patrol made contact with the 504th at 
the southernmost canal crossing, Bridge 7 be- 
tween Heumen and Molenhoek, which the 504th 
had taken intact. 

The 3d Battalion of the 505th had assembled 
and set up its CP by 1345. Two companies then 
marched on Groesbeek, which was less than a 
mile north of the zone, and took it easily about 
1500. The other company patrolled southeast- 
ward toward the Reichswald Forest. The enemy 
halted its probing in several sharp encounters near 
the edge of the forest but showed no aggressive 
tendencies. The tanks rumored to be in the forest 
did not appear. 

The 1st Battalion, which was to hold the divi- 
sion's southern perimeter from the railroad bridge 
to the Reichswald, assembled about 90 percent of 
its strength on DZ N before 1330— in less than 
20 minutes. It proceeded to occupy positions at 
the southern end of the Groesbeek ridge, and then 
sent detachments west to Mook and the railroad 
bridge, south to Riethorst, and east to the edge of 
the Reichswald. They took 30 prisoners at Mook, 
and found the enemy in the Reichswald much 
weaker than expected, but at Riethorst on the 
main road running along the Maas to Gennep the 
Germans attacked with motley forces of somewhat 
more than company strength. By nightfall they 
had been beaten off with heavy losses and the 
front was quiet. 

Thus by 2100 the 505th PIR had taken all its 
objectives and held a strong semi-circular perime- 
ter extending from the canal on the west to Riet- 
horst in the south and Heikant in the east. A 

110 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

summary of battalion strength reports at 2200 
gave the 1st Battalion 43 officers and 614 men, the 
2d 42 officers and 552 men and the 3d 40 officers 
and 592 men. The regiment had at its disposal 
over 95 percent of those who had made the drop. 
Jump casualties from accidents and wounds com- 
bined had put only 14 of its men out of action, 
and battle losses had been very small. 13 

The second trio of serials, also of 45 planes 
apiece, carried 2,031 troops of the 504th PIR. 
One planeload carried by the 315th Group went 
down over western Holland. Three soldiers re- 
fused to jump, and two wounded were brought 
back. The rest jumped in the vicinity of DZ O. 

The first of these serials, flown by the 316th 
Group, was to put down the 1st Battalion of the 
504th at the east end of DZ O, a mile northeast 
of the village of Overasselt and Wi miles west of 
the Maas-Waal Canal. The battalion had the task 
of taking the bridges over the canal, and its drop 
point had therefore been set as close to them as 
was feasible. The drop was good, though about 
five minutes late. At 1315 some 32 sticks landed 
on the prescribed spot and the rest within a mile 
of it. 

The 315th Group, flying the other two serials, 
was to drop all but 1 1 sticks a short distance north- 
west of Overasselt. Doing what the 504th's com- 
mander called a splendid job, it put all 78 sticks 
within 1,500 yards of the pathfinder beacons. In 
this area landed all of the 504th PIR except the 
1st Battalion and Company E. That company had 
been detailed to drop in heavily ditched fields on 
the far side of the river to take that end of the 
Grave bridge. The highway, river and bridge 
marked the spot unmistakably, but 10 of the 11 
sticks landed between 500 and 1 ,200 yards south 
of the zone, possibly because the pilots feared 
they might drop the men in the river. 

The 504th had its CP open by 1330 and had 
radio contact with all its units by 1340. First in 
action was Company A, which assembled within 
15 minutes and moved rapidly on its objective, 
Bridge 8. However, as the troops came in sight 
of the bridge the Germans blew it up. More for- 
tunate was Company B, which managed to ap- 
proach Bridge 7 at Heumen unseen and kept it 
under such fire that the enemy was unable to 
explode the charges. About 1800 the company 
seized the Heumen bridge intact. Company C 
reached Bridge 9 at Hattert about 1940 after a 

march of nearly three miles only to have it blow up 
as the unit approached. Only one bridge over the 
canal had been taken, but that was all that was 
needed, and the west side of the canal had been 
secured up to Bridge 9. 

Far more important than the canal bridges was 
the 640-foot structure over the Maas at Grave. 
That had to be taken intact if the British armor 
was to get through on schedule. Recognizing the 
need for haste, the platoon of E Company dropped 
nearest the bridge attacked it without waiting for 
the rest of the company. The paratroops worked 
their way down drainage ditches until they were 
close to the span. Then they raked its approaches 
with machine-gun fire, used a bazooka to put a 
flak tower at the south end of the bridge out of 
action, rushed the tower, and took over the gun. 
Meanwhile, the rest of the 2d Battalion, having 
assembled within half an hour, was hurrying up 
to the north end of the bridge. They took it easily, 
and at 1650 the battalion commander jubilantly 
reported "Bridge 11 is ours." 14 Before midnight 
the battalion had pushed several hundred Germans 
out of Grave and had established a perimeter about 
a mile in radius around the south end of the bridge. 

The 3d Battalion of the 504th had been desig- 
nated as regimental reserve. Part of it was used 
to clear the area northwest of DZ O. About three 
miles away beyond the village of Alverna the 
detachment ran into some resistance but nothing 
very formidable. 

At the end of the day the 504th was established 
securely on all its objectives at about 95 percent 
of full strength. Enemy action and jump injuries 
had produced 57 casualties. A slightly larger 
number of men, all of whom were later accounted 
for, were still missing. 13 

The seventh serial in the 82d's mission, 30 
planes of the 439th Group, arrived at its destina- 
tion, DZ N, at 1321, slightly ahead of schedule. 
The group gave a near perfect drop to 47 head- 
quarters artillery personnel and 388 men of the 
307th Engineer Battalion. All the troops landed 
on the zone with only 6 injured and 1 man 
wounded. There being no immediate call for 
engineers, the 307th was used initially to provide 
security for divisional headquarters and later to 
guard the 82d's CP, which was set up at 1700 
about 1,000 yards west of Groesbeek. 16 

Next to drop were 1,922 men of the 508th PIR 
and 40 pathfinders of the 325th Glider Regiment, 

Market— The A irborne Invasion of Holland Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater- 


transported by two 45-plane serials of the 441st 
Group and one of 42 planes from the 440th Group 
with DZ T as their destination. One stick had to 
jump near DZ O and another went out half a mile 
short of the zone because the planes carrying them 
were about to crash. Two or three other sticks 
jumped between DZ O and DZ T because of over- 
eagerness. Two pilots overshot the zone by 1,000 
yards and dropped their loads east of it near Wyler. 
About 25 paratroops, a majority of whom had 
been wounded, were brought back to England. 

The zone was unmarked, and hopes that the 
first troops to land could set off smoke signals for 
later serials were not fulfilled. Nevertheless, al- 
though the fire around DZ T was severe, head- 
quarters and two battalions of the 508th were put 
down in excellent tight patterns just outside the 
northern edge of the zone and the 3d Battalion, 
also well massed, was placed within its eastern end. 
The drop had begun at 1326 and by 1500 the 
regiment was 90 percent assembled. The com- 
mander of the 3d Battalion wrote 'We could not 
have landed better under any circumstances." 

The first task of the 508th was to clear the vicin- 
ity of its drop zone. This was quickly accom- 
plished. One German antiaircraft battery on the 
edge of the zone was overwhelmed by troops 
jumping directly on it, and 20 men who had 
dropped near Wyler surprised and wiped out the 
crew of another battery. The next step, seizure of 
the northern portion of the Groesbeek ridge and 
establishment of roadblocks in the hamlets of 
De Ploeg and Berg en Dal on either side of the 
ridge was accomplished before 1900 over light 
resistance. General Gavin had directed that if all 
went well in these operations a battalion should 
be sent as soon as possible to take the Nijmegen 
bridge. More than 4,000 SS troops had been re- 
ported in Nijmegen, but the bridge was essential* 
and a bold stroke might take it. With surprise and 
darkness to aid them the attackers might bypass 
the main German garrison and reach the bridge, 
which was on the eastern edge of the town. 

Accordingly the 1st Battalion of the 508th was 
directed to take the Nijmegen bridge, and at 2030 

*It was a five-span steel bridge 1,960 feet long with a 35- 
foot roadway fit for heavy vehicles and tanks. Beside it the 
Germans had set up a pontoon bridge. There was also a rail- 
road bridge across the Waal west of Nijmegen, but this had 
only a 10-foot roadway unsuitable for vehicles. The Waal at 
Nijmegen was between 800 and 1,800 feet across. To build 
a bridge across it capable of carrying tanks and guns would be 
a slow business requiring great quantities of engineer supplies. 

A and B Companies marched north up the road 
from De Ploeg, while the 3d Battalion assisted by 
sending G Company forward from Berg en Dal to 
cover their right. Guided by members of the 
Dutch underground A and B Companies reached 
Nijmegen at 0015 on the 18th and penetrated to 
within 400 yards of the bridge before the Germans 
closed in on them. That ended the first bid for 
the bridge. The paratroop vanguard, heavily out- 
numbered, held their ground until morning but 
could not advance. However, by seizing and de- 
stroying the building which housed the controls, 
they had upset German arrangements for demoli- 
tion of the span. 17 

The 376th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion 
had been sent in the eleventh and last of the divi- 
sion's paratroop serials, a 48-plane formation of 
the 440th Group, to drop on DZ N at 1340. This 
gave the 505th about half an hour to clear the 
enemy from the vicinity and mark the zone with 
smoke as insurance against the inaccuracy and 
heavy losses which had plagued artillery drops in 
the past. The serial carried 544 troops and 42 
tons of materiel, including twelve 75-mm. how- 
itzers. It reached the zone at 1333, about seven 
minutes early. 

This time the artillery got an almost perfect 
drop. Every stick landed on or very close to the 
zone. At least 24 men were injured or wounded 
but hardly a one was missing. In slightly over an 
hour the battalion was assembled and had 10 of its 
howitzers ready for action. Another gun was firing 
before nightfall. According to General Gavin 
these weapons were of very great assistance in 
breaking up attacks by low-caliber German troops 
thrown against his division in the 24 hours after 
it landed. 18 

After the paratroops of the 82d Division came 
a single glider serial from the 439th Group bound 
for LZ N with 50 planes towing Wacos. In the 
first 22 gliders were 86 men of Battery A, 80th 
Airborne Antitank Battalion, with eight 57-mm. 
guns, nine jeeps, and two trailers of ammunition 
to provide some insurance against attacks by 
enemy armor. In the rear were elements of 
divisional headquarters, divisional artillery head- 
quarters, the divisional signal company, the recon- 
naissance platoon, and an air support party, which 
all together numbered 130 men and 18 jeeps. 

The serial began its take-off from Balderton at 
1112 and began assembling at low altitude while 

112 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

the 439th's paratroop serial was still circling over- 
head. Soon afterwards the serials of the 440th 
Group swept over the field causing some confu- 
sion. Two gliders broke their towropes at take-off 
and had to start over, and another, brought back 
because its load started to shift, was towed to 
Holland alone some time after the rest. One Waco 
carrying a jeep began to disintegrate over the 
Channel, was released, and ditched safely. Anti- 
aircraft guns on Schouwen Island brought down 
one plane and its glider, putting 6 troop carrier 
men and two of the airborne in the missing column. 
Five planes were damaged by antiaircraft fire. 

With these exceptions the flight was successful 
and comparatively uneventful. Release was made 
at 1347 about a mile short of the proper point. 
This error probably prevented some losses by en- 
abling the serial to make its turn without going 
over enemy positions in the Reichswald Forest. 
Only six of the gliders reached LZ N, but 40 came 
down within a mile to the west, and the other one 
in the formation landed about IVz miles west of 
the zone. The terrain on which they landed, 
though hillier than that within the zone, was other- 
wise favorable. Two of the gliders were destroyed 
in landing and 14 were damaged, but only seven 
of the airborne troops were injured and four of the 
jeeps seriously damaged. All the guns came 
through intact. 1 " 

One other glider mission to the 8 2d Division's 
sector was made by the RAF to bring the Head- 
quarters of 1 Airborne Corps to LZ N. Dispatched 
were 38 planes of 38 Group towing 32 Horsas 
and 6 Hadrian (Waco) gliders which contained 
105 airborne personnel and great quantities of 
equipment. One Horsa aborted over England, one 
over the sea, and one broke loose over Holland. 
The other 35 gliders had a rather uneventful trip 
and landed safely in the Groesbeek area shortly 
after 1400. Photographs later established that 28 
of the Horsas had landed on LZ N. The first 
attempt to fly a corps headquarters into combat 
had succeeded. 

The British troops assembled quickly and by 
1530 had a corps CP functioning on the wooded 
slopes of the Groesbeek ridge near the northern 
edge of DZ N. Unfortunately corps communica- 
tions functioned very badly. Although radio con- 
tact was soon made with rear headquarters in 
England and with Second Army, no effective com- 
munication with First Airborne Division or with 

the 101st Division was achieved that day. Some 
improvement occurred on the 18th, and some in- 
formation was obtained by telephone, since Dutch 
patriots operated the exchanges in Arnhem and 
Nijmegen. Nevertheless, Browning's first full and 
reliable information on the situation at Arnhem 
was a SITREP received at 0800 on the 19th, and 
until that day he had little knowledge of or influ- 
ence on operations outside the Nijmegen area. 20 

D-day, Operations in the 
Arnhem Sector* 

The British airborne troops were to be delivered 
in four missions, three to Arnhem and one to 
Nijmegen. First, 130 planes of 46 Group and 23 
of 38 Group were to release Horsa gliders on LZ S 
beginning at 1300 hours. Then 167 aircraft of 38 
Group would loose 154 Horsas and 13 Hamilcar 
gliders on LZ Z. The gliders would bring in troops 
of 1 Airlanding Brigade Group, including an anti- 
tank battery with 17-pounder guns aboard the big 
Hamilcars. Next in line were the 38 planes which, 
as described earlier, were to turn aside at Nijmegen 
and deliver British Corps Headquarters to LZ N. 
Finally, 143 American aircraft of the 5 2d Wing 
would fly to DZ X and drop 1 Parachute Brigade 
there at 1355. 

The glider missions to LZ's S and Z began in- 
auspiciously with one glider grounded by damage 
before take-off and 23 gliders breaking loose over 
England. The British, flying at 2,500 feet, had run 
into clouds which the Americans a thousand feet 
below them had not encountered. Beyond the 
English coast the clouds were mostly above 2,500 
feet, but even under these improved conditions one 
more glider broke loose over the Channel and 
-seven over Holland. Engine trouble caused one 
combination to turn back and forced the release 
of three gliders, two of them over the sea and one 
over Schouwen. All occupants of the ditched 
gliders were rescued. A total of 39 gliders were 
unable to reach their zones. 

In their flight over the northern route the two 
missions suffered even less from enemy action 
than did the American paratroop mission to Nij- 
megen, which accompanied them much of the way. 
Nearing the coast they encountered some flak from 
batteries and a barge. They saw very little flak 

*For orientation in the Sector, refer to Map No. 9, p. 113. 

114 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater Market— The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

thereafter, although there was considerable small- 
arms fire near Arnhem. No planes were lost and 
only six were damaged. 

The level of route accuracy was high. No pilot 
is known to have lost his way. The British at- 
tributed this success mainly to excellent visual 
navigation. Gee was unable in most cases to give 
a good target fix. This failure of what all the 
British pilots relied on as their primary radar aid 
was only partly due to jamming and partly to un- 
specified factors, one of which may have been 
distance. Less than half the fliers elected to use 
Rebecca. Good results were reported by most of 
those interrogating the Eureka on LZ S, but barely 
half of those attempting to pick up the one on LZ 
Z got satisfactory responses. American experience 
indicates this poor performance may have been 
due to imperfect calibration. 

The zones were clearly recognized, and the 
landings were good. The colored panels, smoke 
and Very lights displayed by the pathfinders were 
quite visible, but the glider pilots do not seem to 
have paid much attention to them. They came 
down all over the zones, showing some tendency 
to overshoot in the light and variable breeze. Of 
134 gliders which reached the Arnhem area on 
their way to LZ S, 132 certainly landed on or very 
near that zone. Of the 150 remaining gliders 
headed for LZ Z, 116 landed on the zone and 27 
were located very near it. The most serious acci- 
dent was the loss of two guns when the Hamilcars 
carrying them stuck in soft ground and turned 
over. 21 

The paratroop mission to Arnhem, flown by two 
serials of the 314th Troop Carrier Group and two 
from the 61st Group, began its take-offs from 
Saltby and Barkston Heath at 1121 and had all its 
planes in the air by 1155. They assembled 
smoothly and had a rather uneventful trip over 
the northern route. Slight and ineffectual flak 
greeted them as they reached the continent and 
there was some flak from near Elst and Wagenin- 
gen in the Arnhem area. However, not a plane 
was shot down and only five were damaged. The 
formation leaders reported their Gee sets were 
badly jammed, but Rebecca guided them well. 
The white panels on the zones showed up clearly 
and the blue smoke was particularly effective in 
the still air. 

Between 1353 and 1408 all but four of the 
2,283 paratroops in the aircraft made their jump 

at altitudes of 700 to 900 feet and all but 35 of 
the 680 parapacks carried were released. One 
of the packs had fallen earlier and the other 34 
stuck, although several of the pilots made extra 
passes in attempts to get them loose. 32 

The accuracy of the paratroop drop was almost 
perfect, and the troops were assembled and ready 
to move by 1500 hours. The plans had provided 
that a glider-borne reconnaissance squadron would 
race ahead in jeeps and seize the highway bridge. 
The 2d Battalion of the Parachute Brigade would 
follow on foot to reinforce this advance party. 
Unfortunately, so many of the gliders carrying the 
reconnaissance squadron failed to reach the land- 
ing zone that the unit was unable to operate. 
However, the paratroop battalion set out from 
Heelsum at 1530 and headed east down the 
Utrecht highway toward the road bridge six miles 
away. During the first four miles throngs of cheer- 
ing Dutchmen were the greatest impediment en- 
countered. On the outskirts of the city Company 
C was detached to turn right along the railway and 
seize the railroad bridge over the river. Some men 
had actually sprinted onto the bridge when the 
German guards set off their charges and the main 
span curled skyward.* The company then moved 
into Arnhem, attacked German positions near the 
railway station, was cut off, and, a day or so later, 

Soon after Company C left them, A and B Com- 
panies were halted by fire from an armored car 
and from machine guns and mortars on a rise 
called Den Brink. An antitank gun was brought 
up to deal with enemy armor; B Company was 
detached to neutralize Den Brink, and A Com- 
pany pressed on as quickly and unobtrusively as 
possible. On reaching the bridge about 2000, 
it seized the north end unopposed but an attempt 
to send a platoon to the south end was driven back 
by fire from SS troops supported by two antitank 
guns and an armored car. The Germans had just 
arrived. A Dutch constable who walked across 
the bridge at 1930 stated after the war that the 
guards usually placed there were not on duty and 
that no one was there to defend it when he crossed. 
Never was the value of a coup de main more evi- 
dent. A force landed or dropped near the south 
end of the bridge that afternoon could have se- 
cured it without a blow. 

*The pontoon bridge was already unusable. The Germans 
had removed the center portion a day or two before. 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 


The company at the bridge was reinforced soon 
after arrival by battalion headquarters and later 
by part of brigade headquarters. Radio failure 
thwarted attempts to summon B Company to the 
bridge, but it got there at dawn on the 18th, having 
lost one platoon in the dark. About 100 men of 
other units also marched in about that time after 
bypassing German strongpoints during the night. 
Their arrival raised the force at the bridge to a 
strength of approximately 550 men. 

The struggle of this little band, led by Lt. Col. 
J. D. Frost, holds a place in British history like 
that occupied in American tradition by the battle 
of the Alamo, but in both cases the result was 
inevitable unless substantial reinforcements 
reached the defenders — and no help came. The 
paratroops held a perimeter around the bridge 
until driven from it by tanks on the 19th. On the 
20th tanks and mobile guns moved to within a 
range of 30 yards and shelled the houses still 
occupied by the battalion until all were burning 
and only one was standing. Then German infantry 
began infiltration of what remained of the para- 
troops' positions. Less than 100 men were still 
able to fight, and their ammunition was almost 
gone. Early on the 21st the survivors were ordered 
to split up and escape by hiding or filtering through 
the German lines. Hardly any succeeded. 

What had happened to all the other troops 
landed and dropped outside Arnhem on 17 Sep- 
tember? The answer is that most of the glider- 
borne troops had to stay where they were to guard 
drop and landing areas for the next day's missions, 
and that the rest of the paratroops had been 
stopped short of the bridge. Divisional Head- 
quarters had opened at 1430 on D-day and by 
1600 some 1,400 troops of 1 Airlanding Brigade 
had assembled to the strains of a bagpipe and 
moved into position around the zones. Although 
opposition had been negligible during landing, they 
were harassed during the night by aggressive pa- 
trols and mortar fire, indications of hard fighting to 
come. The 3d Parachute Battalion had followed 
the 2d down the Utrecht highway but had b6en 
slowed by strong resistance. At dawn on the 18th 
it was still on the western side of Arnhem, heavily 
engaged and unable to advance. The 1st Battalion 
was supposed to take high ground on the north side 
of the city. Therefore, after a splendid drop some 
200 yards from its rendezvous, the unit moved 
north from the zone onto the Ede-Arnhem road 

and started down that road at practically full 
strength. Slowed by heavy sniping and by a halt 
to take defensive positions after sighting German 
tanks, it was unable to reach the city before night- 
fall. About 0100 the commander decided to push 
on into Arnhem and join forces with the other 
battalions, but the night advance proved costly, 
and at first light his troops were at a standstill 
somewhat north of the railway station with the 
road in front of them effectively blocked. 23 

The Balance for D-day 

At the end of D-day MARKET-GARDEN 
seemed to be going well. With powerful air sup- 
port to clear their path the American and British 
troop carriers had been successful beyond all ex- 
pectations. The airborne commanders were 
unanimous and fervent in their praise of the accu- 
rate and efficient delivery of their troops. 24 

The ground thrust by the British Guards Divi- 
sion had failed to reach Eindhoven; the Zon bridge 
had been blown; and no bridges over the Waal or 
the Rhine had yet been taken. On the other hand, 
the Guards delay did not seem serious; the span 
at Zon would soon be usable; and paratroops had 
driven close to the still-intact highway bridges at 
Nijmegen and Arnhem. Except at Best and in 
Nijmegen resistance to the American airborne had 
been limited, as expected, to feeble attacks by 
small, nondescript groups. The plight of the Brit- 
ish at Arnhem was desperate, but as yet they did 
not know it. 

What made their situation so bad was the pres- 
ence of overwhelming numbers of German guns 
and tanks near Arnhem. The Germans had re- 
cently moved both the 9th and 10th SS Panzer 
Divisions into that area to refit. Dutch agents 
reported their presence to the Allies but, although 
the 8 2d Division appears to have received and to 
some extent accepted the report, British intelli- 
gence experts dismissed it as incredible. They 
judged that the Germans could muster at Arnhem 
no more than 3,000 disorganized men with very 
few tanks and guns. 

The Germans were further favored by the pres- 
ence of their commanding general, Field Marshal 
Walter Model, who had his headquarters at Ooster- 
beek within three miles of the British landing 
zones. Without lingering in his ringside seat Model 
leaped into his car as soon as the landings began, 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 1.17 

drove full speed into Arnhem and summoned his 
panzers into action. Thus before the British had 
finished assembling, superior German forces were 
deploying against them. 

It has been suggested that the Germans were 
able to plan a trap at Arnhem because the plans 
for MARKET had been betrayed to them. Be- 
trayal there certainly was, but it probably made 
little difference. A Dutch leader, Christian Linde- 
mans, had been sent by SHAEF to Eindhoven on 
14 September to warn the resistance group there 
of an Allied attack. Lindemans, however, had 
turned informer six months before to save his 
brother from the clutches of the Gestapo and now, 
faithful to his new masters, told all he knew of 
the operation to the head of German Army Intelli- 
gence at Driebergen on 15 September and was 
also questioned at Vught by staff officers of Gen- 
eral Kurt Student's First Parachute Army, which 
was defending that sector. This can be reconciled 
with Student's post-war statement that he was 
completely surprised by the airborne operation by 
assuming that Lindemans' message merely referred 
in general terms to an attack through Eindhoven. 
Lindemans seems to have had only an inkling that 
airborne troops would be used. To have told him 
more would have been not only unwise but un- 

A ground attack up the Eindhoven road had 
seemed quite likely to the Germans, and the recon- 
naissance activity which they observed along the 
Eindhoven-Arnhem road tended to confirm such 
an hypothesis. Apparently they even mistook the 
preparatory bombing and strafing on the morning 
of the 17th for an interdiction operation in support 
of a ground assault. Student, Germany's leading 
airborne expert, could hardly fail to see that the 
Zon bridge was a logical objective for an airborne 
mission, but since he is said to have regarded deep 
airborne penetrations as inconsistent with Allied 
policy and Montgomery's cautious character, he 
probably did not expect such an operation north 
of the Wilhelmina Canal. 

All the German dispositions are consistent with 
the view that they anticipated an attack but had 
no specific knowledge of an airborne operation. 
Steps taken in accordance with that expectation 
would account for the stiff resistance facing the 
Guards on their way to Eindhoven, the prompt- 
ness with which the Zon bridge was blown, and 
the ferocious fighting around the bridge at Best. 

On the other hand, if the Germans had had defi- 
nite knowledge of the 101st Division drop plans, 
they would surely have had a reception committee 
on the drop zones, and if they had realized that 
Arnhem was in danger, the all-important bridges 
at Nijmegen and Arnhem would not have been left 
intact and almost unguarded. As for the two 
panzer divisions at Arnhem, they had been ordered 
to that area as far back as 8 September, a week 
before Lindemans did his Judas work. The evi- 
dence, then, points to an Allied blunder rather 
than a German trap. German intelligence had not 
discovered the MARKET plan. Allied intelligence 
had disastrously erred in ruling out the presence 
of the panzers at Arnhem. 25 

On the evening of D-day 10 planes of the RAF 
Bomber Command dropped dummies and firing 
devices west of Utrecht and another 10 did so near 
Emmerich in an attempt to divert enemy forces 
from the MARKET area. The Germans were 
sufficiently deceived to send troops into the sup- 
posed drop areas, and as late as D plus 4 they 
listed the drops as genuine. However, capture of 
an Allied field order on the evening of D-day 
revealed to the Germans the true location and 
objectives of MARKET and thereby destroyed 
most of the value of the deception. 26 

D plus I, Plans and Auxiliary 
Air Action 

About 1800 on D-day General Brereton decided 
to postpone H-hour on D plus 1 from 1000 to 
1400 hours and to send all his missions that day 
over the southern route. The delay was deter- 
mined by predictions that fog would cover the 
take-off fields during the early morning and that 
there would be rain and low clouds over the 
Channel and the Low Countries until about noon. 
The change in route was made to avoid flak. If 
the British and the 101st Division progressed as 
expected, the southern route would be in friendly 
hands as far as Nijmegen. 

Early on the 18th the weather appeared to be 
developing as predicted, but by late morning 
dense masses of low-lying clouds were threaten- 
ing to make the southern route unusable. There- 
fore Brereton hastily ordered all missions to fly 
along the northern route.* The arrival time was 
left at 1400 hours. 

*See Map No. 6, p. 92. 

118 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

The effect of these changes was to mass four 
missions on one route at one time, an achieve- 
ment made possible by the prior arrangements for 
three-lane traffic. Serials for the 101st Division 
would fly in the right lane and head right at the 
IP to LZ W. Those for the 82d Division would 
be in the center, and American planes carrying 
British paratroops to Arnhem would use the left 
lane and turn left at the IP. Overhead at 2,500 
feet would be British planes towing gliders to the 
Arnhem area. In all, 1,336 American troop car- 
rier planes, 340 British troop carriers and 1,205 
gliders would be dispatched. Immediately after 
them 252 B-24's on the bomber resupply mission 
would fly over the same route to get the benefit of 
the anti-flak operations set up to protect the troop 

Orders to use the northern route reached the 
troop carrier fields at the last minute. When the 
news arrived at Chilbolton 20 minutes before 
take-off time, the crews of the 442d Group were 
already aboard their planes and the group had 
only enough time to brief the flight leaders on the 
new plan. The lead serial crews of the 313th 
Group also had to be called from their aircraft 
about half an hour before take-off to get the news. 
Warnings to swing wide at the IP to avoid flak had 
to be sent by radio. 27 

The airborne missions on 18 September were 
protected on the same massive scale as before. 
Air Defense of Great Britain sent 277 fighters to 
guard the troop carriers between England and the 
IP. Of these, 16 Spitfire squadrons gave escort 
and area cover, while three squadrons of Spitfires, 
five of Tempests, and three of Mustangs attacked 
flak positions from Schouwen island to the IP. 
Six fighters were lost. 

The Eighth Air Force had 397 fighters make 
sorties in support of MARKET. As on D-day, 
two groups of P-51's flew perimeter patrols on a 
line curving from Hasselt through Wesel to the 
Zuider Zee. Between the IP and the zones six 
P-51 groups, most of them guided by MEW, flew 
area cover at and above 2,500 feet, while two 
P-47 groups and the rocket squadron loaned by 
the Ninth Air Force attacked flak batteries and 
other ground targets. 

On the 18th the Allied fighters had to contend 
with the first strong effort made by the Germans 
to intercept an Allied airborne mission. This ef- 
fort was made in accordance with decisions taken 

by Hitler at a conference on the night of the 17th. 
The Nazi dictator had decided that since ground 
reserves were inadequate for a large-scale counter- 
attack, the Luftwaffe would have to make an all- 
out effort to tip the scales against MARKET. 

The German airmen were met on D plus 1 by 
the 357th and 359th Fighter Groups. The 359th 
Group, patrolling the perimeter with 57 planes, 
fought and repelled 35 FW-190's about 15 miles 
northeast of Arnhem, shooting down three of them 
and losing two of its own aircraft. The 357th 
Group, which was supposed to cover the Eind- 
hoven area, was vectored out onto the perimeter 
about 40 miles southeast of Eindhoven to meet an 
attack. There, at 1505, while troop carrier opera- 
tions were at their height its 52 planes battled 
about 60 enemy fighters. The pilots claimed 26 
of the Germans destroyed at a cost of two of their 
own planes. None of the Nazis got through to 
strike at the troop carrier columns that day. 

Operations against flak batteries did not go as 
well as on D-day. Since it was impossible to know 
with any accuracy what positions the airborne 
troops would be holding, the fighters had orders 
to attack only when fired upon. The Germans 
quickly learned to hold their fire until the P-47's 
were almost past, give them a short burst from 
the rear, and cease fire. These tactics made it 
very difficult to locate hidden batteries or to make 
sure that a suspected position was hostile. Haze 
and low clouds further hampered identification 
and greatly impeded bombing. Out of 95 P-47's 
three were lost and 10 damaged. Only 49 dropped 
bombs. The pilots claimed 33 flak positions de- 
stroyed, 4 damaged, about 37 silenced, and several 
secondary targets hit. They were skeptical as to 
their own effectiveness under such baffling condi- 
tions particularly in the case of the "silenced" 
batteries. However, their purpose was achieved. 
The troop carriers were able to fly in daylight over 
more than 80 miles of enemy territory with losses 
of less than two percent. 28 

D plus I, Eindhoven Sector 

In the 101st Division's area of responsibility 
the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment marched 
south at dawn, reached Eindhoven at 0900, and 
took the town before noon over the resistance of 
about a battalion of Germans. The bridges there 
were unharmed. Two British armored cars on 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 119 

reconnaissance got through to the 506th about 
1230, but the rest of the British armor was still 
five miles to the south, bumping along from road- 
block to roadblock. Not until 1830 did the 
Guards reach Eindhoven, and they halted for the 
night outside Zon on the south side of the Wil- 
helmina Canal while their engineers laid a Bailey 
bridge over the center trestle of the damaged 
highway bridge there. 28 

The 501st PIR had a relatively easy day. It 
repulsed four or five feeble attacks made by im- 
provised German forces gathered west of it at 
Schijndel and 's Hertogenbosch. Much more seri- 
ous was the situation of the 502d PIR. Its 3d 
Battalion began the day in battle with superior 
forces at the Best highway bridge. The rest of the 
regiment, excepting the 1st Battalion, which re- 
mained at St. Oedenrode, moved to assist it and 
was also engaged and pinned down. Early in the 
afternoon the Germans attacked with artillery and 
tank support against the paratroops, who were 
still without artillery. "Enemy closing in, situa- 
tion getting desperate," reads the entry in a bat- 
talion journal. 30 Bombing and strafing by five 
P-47's, which arrived in the nick of time, enabled 
the troops to repel that attack, but bitter and 
indecisive fighting continued throughout the day 
in the Best sector, within 1,000 yards west and 
southwest of LZ W. This situation presented an 
unexpected hazard to the glider missions landing 
on W that afternoon. 31 

The 101st Division was to be reinforced on the 
18th by a 450-plane mission of the 53d Wing 
bringing Waco gliders to LZ W. The mission was 
divided into an A Section and a B Section, each 
made up of six serials, one from each of the groups 
at the Wing's disposal. Aboard the gliders were 
2,656 troops, 156 jeeps, 111 trailers full of sup- 
plies, two bulldozers, and no guns.* Again one 
notes the assumption that the 101st would be able 
to get along without artillery, but would need 
great mobility to cover its long perimeter. The 
troops carried were principally from the 327th 
Glider Infantry Regiment (minus the 1st, Bat- 
talion), the 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion, 
and the 326th Airborne Medical Company. Among 
the remainder was a detachment of divisional 
headquarters including the divisional artillery 

*Hq 101st Abn Div, Report on Operation MARKET Troop 
Carrier figures list 2,624 troops, 167 vehicles and 9 guns, which 
probably were heavy weapons of the 327th Glider Infantry. 
(Hist 53d TC Wg Sep 44) 

commander, Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe, 
who rode in the lead glider of the lead serial. 

Take-offs began about 1120, and the serials 
assembled over the Greenham Common area, took 
their positions at Hatfield, and proceeded 83 miles 
northeast to Aldeburgh. From there they followed 
the northern route to the IP below 's Hertogen- 
bosch and turned south southeast on their final 
run to LZ W. The weather was good, except for 
a thick haze, which in places limited visibility to 
a couple of miles. 

Despite the favorable weather 10 gliders failed 
to leave England; five of them had structural fail- 
ures and five broke loose or were prematurely 
released. Two of the 10 crashed. Three Wacos 
were ditched in the Channel, but alert rescue work 
saved all aboard them. Another became uncon- 
trollable, was released over Schouwen Island, and 
glided to probable destruction in a heavily fortified 

In general ground fire was unexpectedly slight 
and inaccurate, and no German planes were 
sighted. The first serial suffered worst, two of its 
planes being shot down after their gliders were 
released, and 21 others being damaged, generally 
after they passed the IP. 

The other 11 serials in the mission lost only 
two planes between them. One of those was hit 
about 15 miles short of the zone, caught fire, 
released its glider and crashed. The other ditched 
on the way back but the crew were saved. Cas- 
ualties among the troop carrier crews totalled only 
eight dead or missing and about that number 
wounded or injured. Out of 1 12 aircraft damaged, 
108 were readily repairable. Four, two of which 
had collided while landing, had to be salvaged. 

As mentioned above, one glider had to be cut 
loose prematurely when its tug plane was set afire. 
Another Waco was hit by flak three miles from 
the zone and disintegrated. Three others were 
prematurely released over enemy territory and 
not heard of again. Another three reached the 
zone but crashed upon it. The remaining 428 
gliders landed safely on or near LZ W between 
1430 and 1620. The serials arrived at very irregu- 
lar intervals with two apparently out of sequence. 
Naturally this led to confusion and interference 
at the release point, and some units reported being 
forced to release their gliders at altitudes of 1,200 
and even 1,500 feet. However, by daylight with 
plenty of landing room this mix-up produced only 

120 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

minor inconvenience. Captain E. C. Thornton, 
an airborne observer, called the landings splen- 
didly executed. 

The focus of the landings was at the extreme 
west end of the zone, and many were made some- 
what further west. In such cases the planes and 
gliders came within range of the German troops 
massed in the vicinity of Best, and some of the 
glider-borne troops were pinned down by rifle and 
mortar fire as they emerged from their gliders. 

Assembly on the whole went quickly and well. 
The men formed in small groups and moved east 
onto the highway where they were sorted out 
with the aid of a control section established by 
divisional headquarters. When the returns were 
in, 2,579 troops had been mustered and 151 jeep's 
-and 109 trailers had been reported on hand and 
usable. Only 54 of the airborne were dead or 
missing and 23 were injured. Only five of the 
jeeps and two of the trailers were lost or damaged. 
The mission had been about 95 percent successful. 
A carrier pigeon was dispatched to bring the good 
news to the lOlst's headquarters in England. 32 

D plus 1, Nijmegen Sector 

The 8 2d Division was faced on D plus 1 with a 
threat which for a time was serious indeed. At 
first everything seemed promising. The 508th 
PIR had extended its lines westward to make con- 
tact with the 504th at the site of Bridge 9, thus 
giving the division a neat sausage-shaped perimeter 
with its north side on high ground and its south 
protected by the Maas. Except for Nijmegen the 
enemy had shown little strength, and the 508th was 
deploying for a stronger thrust at the Nijmegen 
bridge. Then between 0800 and 1000 the Ger- 
mans surged down the road from Wyler, pushed 
back the one company of the 508th which had 
been left to guard LZ T, and seized an ammuni- 
tion dump. About the same time, other forces 
attacked out of the Reichswald Forest and over- 
ran DZ N. 

The 8 2d seemed close to disaster. If the Nazis 
held the zones when the gliders landed there would 
be a slaughter which would make that on LZ W in 
Normandy seem insignificant. If the attackers 
broke through the perimeter into the woods around 
Groesbeek, it would scarcely be possible to drive 
them out, and with enemy troops at its center, the 
division's carefully chosen ring of defensive posi- 

tions would become precarious. Fortunately the 
German troops involved were a hastily gathered 
assortment, no match for the paratroops in either 
quality or quantity, and the postponement of the 
glider missions to 1400 gave sufficient time to 
counterattack and clear the landing zones. News 
of the change in schedule had reached the division 
at 0840 about the same time as the first reports of 
the German attacks. 

General Gavin threw his only ready reserve, 
two companies of the 307th Engineers, into the 
gap between the 505th Regiment and the 508th, 
and ordered the two regiments to hold their lines 
along the ridge at all costs and to retake their 
landing zones, T and N, in time for the glider mis- 
sions. The 508th pulled back its companies in the 
Nijmegen area, redeployed on the ridge, and at 
1310 launched an attack on LZ T; by 1400 it 
had regained that area and captured 149 prisoners 
and 16 guns. The 1st Battalion of the 505th was 
directed to attack eastward at 1240 and clear LZ 
N. Already engaged in stiff fighting at Riethorst 
and Mook, the battalion could spare only Com- 
pany C to do the job. However, with help from 
Company I they were able by 1350 to push off the 
zone the relatively weak enemy force. At 1415 the 
Nazis again attacked out of the Reichswald with 
three companies supported by 11 armored ve- 
hicles. The 3d Battalion of the 505th repelled 
this thrust with the help of artillery support, which 
knocked out five of the vehicles. The landing 
zones had been saved, but they were far from 
safe. The Germans had dug in near enough to 
both LZ T and LZ N to rake them with small arms 
fire and bombard them with mortars. 

While carrying on a defensive battle around its 
zones, the 8 2d captured another bridge over the 
Maas-Waal Canal, valuable insurance in case 
anything happened to the one at Heumen. During 
the morning a patrol of the 508th PIR pushed 
north to Honinghutie, the point where the main 
highroad crossed the canal. Checked by stubborn 
resistance on the approaches to the east end of the 
bridge, it called for assistance from the 504th, 
which sent a platoon to assist it. About noon 
this unit moved stealthily onto the west end of the 
bridge, took the Germans by surprise, and slaught- 
ered them. However, the Nazis damaged the struc- 
ture making it unsafe for heavy vehicles. 33 

The glider mission dispatched by the 50th and 
5 2d Wings to the 8 2d Division on the 18th was 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 121 

originally to consist of 1 1 serials with 50 aircraft 
in the first and 40 in each of the rest, but two 
planes had been added to the second and fourth 
serials, making a total of 454. Like that of the 
53d Wing, the mission was divided into two sec- 
tions with one serial from each of six groups in the 
lead section and one from each of them except the 
439th Group in the rear section. Every plane 
towed a Waco. In the gliders were 1,899 troops — 
nearly three quarters of whom were artillerymen — 
206 jeeps, 123 trailers and 60 guns.* The great 
difference between this load and that of the lOlst's 
mission was in the emphasis on artillery. From 
past experience and in view of its exposed posi- 
tion, the staff of the 82d rightly judged it would 
need its guns and had therefore packed into the 
gliders the 319th, 320th and 456th Field Artillery 
Battalions, Battery B of the 80th Antitank Bat- 
talion, and Headquarters Battery of Divisional 

As take-off time approached, fog and low clouds 
hung over the Grantham area, necessitating a 
further delay of some 50 minutes before starting, f 
The first plane took off at 1109, and it was nearly 
two hours before all tugs and gliders were in the 
air. A serial which could assemble and set out on 
course within half an hour of its first take-off was 
considered to be doing well. The clouds were still 
low enough to impede assembly, and one serial of 
the 313th Group had to rendezvous over Cottes- 
more instead of its own base, Folkingham. How- 
ever, beyond the coast the weather was good, 
though somewhat hazy, and the flying was smooth. 

While still over England one glider began to 
disintegrate in mid-air, a not uncommon trick of 
the Waco, and another was loosed by a hysterical 
soldier who reached forward and yanked the re- 
lease handle. Both landed safely. Over the Chan- 
nel two other gliders, caught in prop-wash, lurched 
suddenly and snapped their cables. They ditched, 
and the occupants were quickly rescued. At least 
one of these ditchings was caused by some of the 
four-engined British planes which were supposed 
to be towing their gliders a thousand feet over- 
head but had failed to keep their prescribed alti- 

*These statistics are taken from the divisional history. The 
troop carrier figures are 1,779 troops, 201 jeeps, 55 guns and 
about 210 tons of other supplies and equipment, including 
trailers. The principal differences are in the data for the two 
serials flown by the 61st Group. Some guns seem to have been 
added to the loading lists shortly before the mission. 

fPerhaps because of the weather the serial of the 439th 
Group which was to lead the first section appears to have gone 
at the end of that section, giving the lead to the 313th Group. 

tude. There was also some tendency for the serials 
of the two American glider missions to get in each 
other's lanes, but except for one plane of the 313th 
Group which fell in with a serial of the 53d Wing 
and released its glider on LZ W no mix-up or seri- 
ous confusion resulted. Three other gliders were 
released after landfall and before reaching Grave 
because of accidents or flak damage. Personnel 
and cargo from two of the three later reached the 

Many glider pilots who did complete their 
sorties did so under difficulties. The plexiglass 
windows of some gliders blew out, letting a hun- 
dred-mile-an-hour wind blow through the cockpit. 
Over 20 percent of the interphones between plane 
and glider failed or worked badly. Several glider 
pilots reported that the lack of co-pilots greatly 
increased the strain of the three-hour flight. 

Althiugh aircraft losses ran a little higher than 
those in the parallel mission of the 53d Wing, 
they were low nevertheless, only ten planes in all. 
One pilot, who had endangered himself by slipping 
slightly off course, was brought down by flak on 
Schouwen, and one other probably went down in 
that locality. From the coast to the IP, opposition 
was slight, but flak near 's Hertogenbosch blasted 
the wing off a C-47 and sent it crashing. The 
machine guns and light flak of German troops 
gathering in the Schijndel-Uden area accounted 
for two more planes, and two others were shot 
down within half a minute after releasing gliders 
over LZ T. Considering how close the Germans 
were to the zones, it is remarkable that the bag 
there was no bigger. Three additional aircraft 
were shot down in flames several miles southeast 
of the release area because of a costly mistake. 
Their squadron had missed its zone and had flown 
over strong German forces near Gennep. 

At the end of October, 23 troop carrier men on 
this mission were dead or missing; half a dozen 
had wounds or injuries; the rest had reported back. 
The fate of the gliders whose tugs were lost near 
the coast or over Germany was unknown, but the 
occupants of the other five reached the Allied lines, 
as did four of their cargoes. 

Over 90 percent of the returning planes were 
operational and none had to be salvaged. How- 
ever, about 100 of them had been damaged by 
ground fire. Since more than half the damage was 
concentrated in three serials, portions of which 
had missed their zones and had flown from three 

122 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

to 12 miles beyond them, it can be assumed that 
if all serials had stayed on course, the repairs 
resulting from the mission would have been rela- 
tively light. 34 

The lead serial in the column was one from the 
3 1 3th Group, which was flying its first glider mis- 
sion. As it approached the release area, the forma- 
tion split down the middle into two columns of 
pairs' far enough apart so that all the glider pilots 
could make a left turn without causing too much 
congestion. At 1431 the lead glider cut loose at 
an altitude of 800 feet and descended in a 360° 
spiral to the left. The others followed, most of 
them holding formation in two parallel spirals 
which fanned out as they approached the ground. 
On the downwind leg they passed over the panels 
and smoke, which had been set out by the path- 
finders about a mile southwest of LZ N because 
the zone itself was a battlefield. The landing was 
made directly into a gentle northeast wind. 

Most of the 313th's landings were slow and 
good. Almost every glider incurred some damage 
in landing on the soft, rough, ground, but only one 
glider was wrecked and damage to passengers and 
cargo was slight. Mortar and rifle fire from Ger- 
man positions less than a mile away, supplemented 
occasionally by a shell from some distant gun, 
delayed the unloading of the gliders but did little 
real harm. One glider pilot in the serial was killed 
by a mortar and two or three of the airborne were 

The experience of the 313th was fairly typical 
of the mission as a whole. In all, 385 gliders 
landed within the lines of the 82d Division. Re- 
leases were made consistently at heights of 800 
and 1,000 feet. A majority of the gliders came 
down in orderly fashion. Comparatively few of 
the glider pilots saw smoke signals and very few 
sighted panels. Some, seeing the fighting beneath 
them, chose to come in fast, but most made con- 
servative landings at speeds of 60 to 75 miles per 
hour. There were cases of gliders being brought 
to a stop within as little as 50 feet. The arrestor 
parachutes, which had been installed on about half 
the gliders, proved very effective brakes, and 
many pilots who used them urged later that they 
be made standard equipment. Although most of 
the gliders nosed over or suffered some damage 
to their landing gear, less than 20 of those in the 
landing area had been destroyed. Not a single 
glider pilot is known to have been killed in land- 

ing accidents, but two were slain by enemy fire, 
seven injured and 10 wounded during or soon after 
landing. Thirty-five were missing. Of the air- 
borne only 3 were killed and 42 wounded or in- 
jured during flight or landing, but 117 were miss- 
ing. Not a single gun was reported to have been 
damaged in landing, although six of them came 
down far outside the 82d Division's area and 
could not be used by it. Only 29 of the jeeps and 
17 of the trailers were either damaged or missing, 
so the division was able to employ 85 percent 
of the vehicles which had been loaded. 

Of 212 gliders supposed to land on LZ N about 
150 landed within a circle a half-mile in radius 
centered on the hamlet of Knapheide a mile south- 
west of the zone. All but a handful of the 
other gliders in those serials either landed within 
1 Vi miles of Knapheide or stuck to their instruc- 
tions and landed on LZ N. The 242 intended for 
LZ T did not fare so well. However, approxi- 
mately 90 of them did land on the zone and 52 of 
them west of it but within a mile of the panels and 
smoke, which had been set out by the pathfinders 
exactly on its western edge. Another 19 were well 
bunched slightly over a mile west of LZ T, and 19 
were scattered in German-held territory between 
1 and 4 miles northeast of the zone. 

While the sources are sometimes obscure or 
contradictory, it seems fairly clear that, excepting 
a few individual errors, seriously inaccurate re- 
leases were confined to three serials. In the third 
serial, which was flown by the 316th Group, a 
flight leader loosed his glider prematurely over 
LZ O and half the serial followed his example out 
of obedience and a desire to keep its gliders 
together. One explanation given was that other 
gliders had been seen landing on LZ O, but indi- 
cations are that up to that time only one glider 
had landed there. A dozen glider pilots attest that 
a panel T was visible near Overasselt and this 
may well have caused the release. Whether the 
panels were carelessly left from the day before or 
set out again by order of someone in the 82d, 
which was taking every action it could think of to 
keep the gliders from landing in the battle area, 
their effect was harmless, even beneficial, since 
the landings were made in a safe and suitable area. 
The other half of the serial reached LZ T, but only 
six released gliders there. Eight kept on going and 
deposited their gliders between Wyler and Zyfflich 
northeast of the LZ. This error was costly. From 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 123 

the gliders beyond Wyler the 319th Field Artillery 
lost 5 officers and 40 men dead or captured and 
the cargoes of all eight gliders. 

The eighth serial, which was flown by the 61st 
Group and carried Battery B, 320th Glider Field 
Artillery, also did badly. The glider of one of its 
flight leaders cut loose about 45 miles short of the 
zone as a result of flak damage. The tow pilot 
turned out of formation, circled to watch the 
glider land, and then went home. The pilot who 
took the lead went by pilotage alone after passing 
the IP and got lost. Followed by eight others he 
curved southward, missed the zone, and released 
his glider inside Germany 12 miles east-southeast 
of LZ T. Not one man from the gliders in that 
formation reached the 8 2d Division. The lead 
elements of the other squadron in this serial over- 
shot the zone, with the result that nine of their 
gliders came down in the Wyler area. Although 
the Germans attacked this concentration and de- 
stroyed the gliders by shelling, most of the troops 
and glider pilots took cover and held out till 
nightfall. They then worked their way back to 
the Groesbeek area. The other 21 gliders in the 
serial landed on or near the zone. 

The following serial may well have been influ- 
enced by the errors of its predecessor. It was also 
handicapped by the fact its Gee sets were jammed 
and its Rebeccas for some reason were not picking 
up signals from the Eureka on the landing zone. 
Of 38 gliders in that formation when it reached 
the Grave- Veghel area, at least 24 and probably 
30 made a deviation to the south. However, they 
recognized their error sooner than those in the 
eighth serial and made their release between three 
and five miles south of LZ T in the general vicin- 
ity of Gennep. Some ran into close-range fire from 
antiaircraft batteries and others into automatic 
and small arms fire. Three planes were brought 
down and two gliders crashed. Most of the glider 
pilots protected themselves by slipping or diving 
to minimum altitude before attempting to land. 
Gliders landing safely were attacked almost as 
soon as they hit the ground. Remarkable leader- 
ship by some officers of the 320th Field Artillery 
saved the situation. They gathered together about 
four separate groups which defended themselves 
until nightfall and then worked their way north 
to the American lines. Saved in this way were 
approximately 160 of the airborne and at least 10 
jeeps, 2 guns and 22 glider pilots. Only four glider 

pilots and nine of the airborne were missing. Of 
the other gliders in the serial one cut over LZ O 
after a flak hit, six or seven landed in the vicinity 
of LZ T and one which had overshot the zone 
landed in the Wyler area. Its occupants were able 
to reach friendly territory but had to abandon 
their cargo. 35 

D plus I, Re sup ply by Bomber 

The bomber resupply mission to the 82d and 
101st Divisions was to arrive 20 minutes after the 
troop carriers, drop time being set for 1557. It 
was to be flown by 252 B-24's of the 2d Bombard- 
ment Division from bases in Norfolk and Suffolk. 
Supplies were trucked in on the night of the 17th. 
The ball turrets were removed, and each plane 
was loaded in bomb racks, waist, and bomb bay 
with about two tons of supplies packed in 20 
containers. A trained dropmaster of the 2d Quar- 
termaster Battalion* was assigned to each plane 
to direct the pushing of bundles through the turret 
well and the rear hatch. 

The bomber staff, new to this sort of mission, 
had been in great doubt as to tactics, and par- 
ticularly as to what would be the best altitudes for 
the bombers to maintain. Finally it decided to 
imitate the troop carriers by having the planes fly 
at 1,500 feet to the IP, descend to about 300 feet 
for the drop, and make a climbing turn to 1,500 
feet or higher for the trip back. Formations would 
be nine-ship V's in trail at 30-second intervals. 
The speed would be 165 miles an hour along the 
route and 150 miles when dropping. Except for 
leaving England at Orfordness, a headland two 
miles south of the troop carrier departure point, 
the Liberators would follow the northern troop 
carrier route out and back in order to benefit from 
the marker boat, anti-flak operations, and air-sea 
rescue facilities provided for their predecessors. 
At the IP the 20th Wing with 131 planes would 
proceed to DZ N with supplies for the 82d Divi- 
sion, and behind it 121 aircraft of the 14th Wing 
would turn southward to drop on DZ A and DZ 
a, W for the 101st. 

V The same visual aids set out on the zones for 
the troop carriers were to be provided for the 
bombers, but since the B-24's were not equipped 

*This SOS unit, which had absorbed the 490th QM Depot 
Company and two other quartermaster companies, was at- 
tached to IX TCC and was under operational control of IX 
TCC Service Wing. 

124 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

with Eureka, the pathfinders were to provide radio 
"buncher" beacons to guide them. Each flight was 
to drop its loads when its leader dropped, and he 
was to do so directly over the T. 36 

The bombers were given fully as much support 
as the transports. The ADGB fighters covering 
the troop carrier missions were in a position to 
protect the Liberators over most of their way to 
the IP, and four of the P-51 groups flying area 
cover around Eindhoven and Nijmegen remained 
throughout the supply drop. Two groups of P-38's 
and P-51's flew 104 sorties as close escort from 
landfall to drop zone, and two groups of P-47's 
bombed and strafed flak positions between IP and 
drop zones five minutes before the bombers were 
due to arrive. No hostile planes were sighted, but 
the flak-busters had a hard time. Clouds were roll- 
ing in below 1 ,000 feet; the haze was thickening as 
the afternoon wore on; and the German gunners 
were perfecting their hit-and-hide tactics. In 88 
sorties the P-47 group lost 21 planes and had 
many damaged, while destroying only 6 gun posi- 
tions and damaging about 15. 37 

The bombers were handicapped before they 
started by a curious staff error. After most of the 
briefing was done, it was discovered that the 2d 
Bombardment Division had sent 20th Wing data 
to the 14th Wing and vice-versa. Since the correct 
maps and photographs were flown in just as the 
planes were warming up, pilots and navigators 
had to familiarize themselves with their route as 
they went along. 

Another untoward incident occurred over the 
middle of the Channel. The 20th Wing made a 
360° turn to the left and the 14th, anxious to keep 
its assigned position, turned with it. The turn, 
which was made to avoid running into a belated 
serial of the 442d Troop Carrier Group, caused 
delay and confusion, particularly since the haze 
made it easy for a group which lagged a little to 
lose sight of the one ahead. In the 20th Wing 
the 448th Group became separated from the others 
and proceeded independently, and five pilots in the 
93d Group lost their way and had to go home. 
Thanks to good navigation, greatly aided by Gee, 
all but those five appear to have reached the IP. 

The 20th Wing had some trouble locating DZ 
N. The radio beacon was not on, and most forma- 
tions saw neither panels nor smoke. Part of the 
489th Group missed the zone on its first run, 
circled, turned away on its second run to avoid 

other formations, and dropped on the third try. 
The 448th Group, probably misled by evidences 
of paratroop operations on DZ O, dropped five 
miles short near that zone at 1630 hours. Some 
incoming flights had to swerve to avoid those 
returning. Many appear to have used glider con- 
centrations as drop points, and since the gliders 
were spread up to 3,000 yards north, west and 
south of DZ N, the drop was similarly dispersed. 
The prescribed altitude was well maintained, al- 
most all drops being made from heights between 
250 and 400 feet. Most of the bundles landed 
within the lines of the 82d Division, and about 
80 percent of the 258 tons dropped were recov- 
ered. Estimates vary as to the percentage collected, 
but the value of the ammunition and other items 
delivered was unquestionably great. General 
Gavin considered them "vital to our continued 
combat existence." 38 

The 446th Group experienced an easy approach 
over several miles of friendly territory dotted 
with waving paratroops and Dutch civilians, and 
it returned almost unscathed. The others reported 
small arms and light flak, which in places was 
intense and accurate. The wing lost 4 planes, had 
about 38 damaged and had at least 16 men 

The flights of the 14th Wing had overrun each 
other in the haze and reached the IP in great dis- 
order at altitudes ranging from 500 to 1,500 feet. 
They received little or no assistance from the 
pathfinders, who apparently got their equipment 
into operation too late to be of use. However, 
with one exception, all the 121 pilots found their 
way to the general vicinity of DZ's A and W and 
dropped their loads. Most dropped from about 
300 feet as prescribed, but some flights came in 
on the deck as low as 50 feet, too low for accuracy. 
For the others, as photographs show, the gliders 
on DZ W were the most obvious landmarks. 

The results were not good. Even the wing com- 
mander admitted that the bundles were badly scat- 
tered. Some 238 tons were dropped. On DZ W, 
where 108 of the Liberators were to drop, only 
about 20 percent of the supplies were recovered. 
This is less damning than it appears, since the 
gliders used as checkpoints were at the west end 
of the zone and a deviation of less than a mile to 
the west of them would suffice to put the bundles 
in the hands of the Germans in the Best sector. 
The failure, however understandable, caused the 

Market— The Airborne Invasion of Holland Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 125 

101st Division serious shortages of food and other 

The 501st PIR had been given a drop on DZ A 
by 13 planes. Although the supplies they brought 
were rather scattered, they were centered 1,000 
yards west of the zone. A small-scale German 
attack in this area had been routed about an hour 
earlier, and the 501st had both time and men to 
spare for collection details. Under these relatively 
favorable conditions it was able to retrieve slightly 
over 50 percent of its bundles. 

The 14th Wing had had very little trouble with 
ground fire on the way in, and some flights which 
stayed low and skimmed out on the deck came 
back untouched. However, most pilots who had 
dropped on DZ W made a climbing turn to the 
right, as planned. This tactic posed them like 
clay pigeons directly over the guns of the Germans 
at Best. For a minute or two the Nazis gave the 
wing what even the bomber men regarded as a very 
rough time. Three of their planes were shot down, 
one crash-landed at Brussels, and four crash- 
landed in England fit for nothing but salvage. At 
least 32 others received some damage. Next day 
the returned pilots agreed unanimously that the 
climbing turn was a mistake. 39 

D plus 1, Arnhem Sector 

While the American airborne were having hard 
fighting on D plus 1, the British had worse. Frost's 
paratroops at the highway bridge were penned in 
by German guns and armor and suffered severely. 
The 1st and 3d Parachute Battalions spent a 
nightmare day struggling forward down city streets 
flanked by well chosen and strongly manned Ger- 
man positions. By evening they had gained only 
a few hundred yards and had been whittled down 
to about 100 fighting men apiece. To make mat- 
ters worse, the divisional commander and the 
commander of 1 Parachute Brigade had been cut 
off from their men while following the 3d Bat- 
talion in its house-to-house fighting. 

Back in the drop and landing areas the glider 
troops were having a hard fight to hold their 
perimeter and even had to use the bayonet to 
throw back attacks in some places. Nevertheless, 
the commander of 1 Airlanding Brigade ventured 
to send half a battalion of the South Staffordshire 
Regiment down the Heelsum-Arnhem road to re- 
inforce the paratroops. Like their predecessors 

they reached the western outskirts of Arnhem, ran 
into strong opposition, and could go no farther. 
No more troops could be spared until that day's 
missions arrived, and their arrival had been post- 
poned four hours; a painful delay for the British 
airborne. 40 

The lift to Arnhem on D plus 1 was led by 126 
American planes, two serials of 36 aircraft from 
the 314th Group and two of 27 from the 315th- 
Group. They were to drop 2,1 19 British troops of 
4 Parachute Brigade on DZ Y and with them 51 
tons of supplies, including 407 parapacks and 24 
door bundles. 

From the initial take-off at 1123 their trip over 
the northern route went smoothly, until they 
reached Oss, six miles beyond the IP. There, one 
plane hit by small arms crashed with all aboard 
and flak set another afire. Its occupants all jumped 
and made their way to the Allied lines. Another 
C-47 was hit about 10 miles further on and began 
to burn. The paratroops and at least one of the 
crew got out safely and were guided to Nijmegen 
by the Dutch. The most intense fire, including 
much light flak, came from Wageningen about five 
miles short of the drop zone. Two planes which 
caught fire there attempted crash landings, but 
one of them hit a power line and exploded, and 
the other was probably destroyed. Most of the 
troops had been standing on the alert and were 
able to jump, but only one of the troop carrier 
men got back. At Wageningen the mission turned 
due north, then made a right-angle turn and 
1 crossed DZ Y heading east. Another aircraft was 
hit and set on fire by Germans on the edge of the 
drop zone. All troops were dropped, but plane 
and crew crashed in flames. On the way back, 
danger spots were carefully avoided, and no more 
losses were incurred. However, at least 24 of the 
returning planes had been damaged. The returnees 
blamed part of their losses on lack of fighter- 
bomber assistance, and claimed they had seen no 
friendly fighters beyond the IP. 

Landmarks and navigational aids combined 
made it relatively easy for most pilots in the mis- 
sion to locate DZ Y. They made their drop in a 
shower of tracers between 1406 and about 1420 
from heights of 800 to 1,000 feet. All but a 
couple of parapacks and six paratroops, who were 
prevented from jumping by wounds or snarled 
equipment, were dropped. About 90 percent of 
the drops were, as a British participant put it, 

126 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

"slap in the right place." However, one nine-plane 
flight in the last serial, having become somewhat 
separated from the rest of the formation, dropped 
its loads a mile or two from the zone. A ten-mile 
breeze was blowing, and the troops came down 
rather roughly in brush and trees. Moreover, 
substantial numbers of enemy troops were in the 
drop area. One battalion bagged 80 prisoners 
before it reached its rendezvous. Despite these 
minor blemishes and inconveniences, the drop was 
rightly regarded as very successful. 41 

The paratroop mission to DZ Y was followed 
by 295 British aircraft towing gliders to LZ S and 
LZ X.* In the gliders was the second echelon of 1 
Airlanding Brigade Group. The glider column, 
supposed to fly at 2,500 feet, ran into % to % 
cloud as low as 2,000 feet with the result that 
nine of the gliders broke loose over England and 
two over the North Sea. Ground fire over Holland 
was thicker than it had been on the day before, 
especially in the 's Hertogenbosch area, where 
heavy flak was seen bursting, and several gliders 
were hit. Only one of the tugs was shot down, 
but 30 were damaged. The glider of the destroyed 
plane may have reached the Arnhem area. A total 
of 13 gliders were loosed over Holland and one, 
badly damaged, over friendly Belgium. Some may 
have snapped their cables, but at least 9 of these 
14 releases were caused or necessitated by ground 

As on the first day the accuracy of the British 
fliers was very good. All the pathfinders' beacons 
and markers were functioning, but again Rebecca- 
Eureka worked badly. Less than half of those 
interrogating the Eureka on LZ X received re- 
sponses. Of 73 glider-tug combinations sent to 
LZ S, 69 reached the landing area, and at least 67 
put their gliders on or near the zone. Of 223 
dispatched to LZ X, 203 reported success, and 
photographs showed 189 of their gliders on or 
close to the zone. The principal flaw in the per- 
formance was that most of the glider pilots ignored 
the T's laid out to show wind direction. In spite 
of this, serious accidents were rare and caused 
less damage than the German forces just outside 
the zones. It was estimated that while only 39 of 
the 533 gliders accounted for in the first two lifts 
were wrecked, at least 47 of the 332 gliders on 

*In order to bring in the loads of gliders aborting on the 
prevous day the number dispatched was increased from 270 
to 296. One crashed on take-off because of an engine failure. 

and around LZ's X and Z were destroyed by 
mortar fire or burned to prevent their falling into 
the hands of the enemy. 

A third mission, flown from Harwell by 35 
Stirlings of 38 Group, was to drop supplies on 
DZ L at about l5uC. Two of those converted 
bombers failed to return and 14 others were dam- 
aged. One returning pilot reported dropping by 
mistake on LZ S, which was about a mile west of 
L. All but two of the others believed they had 
made accurate drops, generally from heights of 
about 500 feet. Actually the 803 panniers and 
containers dropped were rather widely scattered, 
and many drifted southwest of the zone into enemy 
territory, probably because the planes from which 
they fell had flown too high. The net weight of 
supplies dropped was 87 tons and of this only 12 
tons were recovered. In contrast, two bulk-loaded 
Hamilcar gliders yielded 14 tons of supplies be- 
tween them. 42 

No time was lost in utilizing the troops deliv- 
ered in the second lift. As soon as the second half 
of the South Staffordshires had assembled after 
landing, they were sent into Arnhem to join the 
rest of the battalion; and at 1515 the divisional 
operations officer, appearing on DZ Y, ordered the 
11th Parachute Battalion to follow the South Staf- 
fordshires to town. However, the eight miles 
between DZ Y and Arnhem could not be covered 
at a bound. Not until late that evening after a 
march through Wolfhezen and Hartestein did the 
paratroops catch up with the Staffordshires near 
a hospital on the west side of Arnhem. By then 
the latter had made contact with the remnants of 
1 Parachute Battalion, and in a conference at 
about 2000 the commanders of the three units laid 
plans for an attack toward the highway bridge at 
0400 next morning. 

The main body of 4 Parachute Brigade minus 
the 1 1th Battalion moved south of its zone to the 
Utrecht-Arnhem railway and advanced down the 
railway with the purpose of taking positions on 
high ground north of Arnhem as specified in the 
original plan. However, it halted because of dark- 
ness near Wolfhezen, which was at the southeast 
corner of LZ S. The battalion of glider troops 
which had held DZ Y during the drop also moved 
along the railway, stopped near the brigade, and 
was attached to it next morning. 

The rest of the division abandoned LZ's S, X, 
and Z and by nightfall on the 18th had moved 

f Airborne Invasion of Holland Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 1 27 

into positions further east centered on Hartestein, 
which was on the highway two miles west of Arn- 
hem, and extending to Heveadorp on the Rhine a 
mile and a half southwest of Hartestein. Thus the 
lines held by the main body of First Division 
roughly resembled an arrowhead with the shaft 
along the highway, the point at Hartestein and the 
barbs at Wolfhezen and Heveadorp:* 8 

The Balance for D Plus J 

During the second day of MARKET the Allies 
had fallen seriously behind schedule, but success 
still seemed within their reach. Few of their diffi- 
culties could be ascribed to the air side of the 
venture. The glider mission for the 101st Division 
had delivered over 95 percent of its loads accu- 
rately and safely, an unprecedented achievement. 
In spite of enemy attacks on the landing zones and 
despite some pilot errors, the mission for the 82d 
Division had been about 85 percent successful. 
Incomplete data on the paratroop and glider mis- 
sions to the British that day indicates their score 
was better than 85 percent. The supply drops had 

been less satisfactory, but shortages were still not 
critical. As yet enemy aircraft had not fired a 
shot at the troop carriers, and losses from ground 
fire continued low. 

The British tanks were still at Zon, awaiting 
the repair of the bridge; the 82d Division had had 
to pull out of Nijmegen; and the situation of the 
British paratroops in Arnhem was known to be 
serious. However, the big bridges at Arnhem and 
Nijmegen were still intact, and the British airborne 
and the 82d Division were preparing to attack 
toward them next day. Though the British had 
suffered cruelly, the Polish paratroops due on the 
1 9th would compensate for their losses. If British 
intelligence was right, the Germans at Arnhem 
had already committed everything they had and 
were near the end of their resources. In that case 
tenacity would win. 

D Plus 2, Plans and Auxiliary 
Air Action 

Weather and tactical developments produced 
several changes in the plans for D plus 2. On 

Figure 9. Paratroop Drop near Grave, Holland, during Operation MARKET, 
23 September 1944. 

128 — Airborne Operations in World War II. European Theater Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

the evening of the 18th General Brereton decreed 
that all airborne missions next day would take 
the southern route and that the drops and landings 
would begin at 1500 hours instead of 1000. His 
preference for flight over friendly territory dic- 
tated selection of the southern route. Predictions 
of extensive fog in northern areas and almost 
unbroken low clouds further south on the morning 
of the 19th account for the postponement. By 
afternoon, the fog would be gone and the clouds 
were expected to lift somewhat. 

The 101st Division had decided it wanted artil- 
lery in the third lift, so the five serials originally 
slated to drop supplies to it were transformed into 
glider serials to bring in guns and gunners. Instead 

Figure 10. Resupply drop from B-24's over Holland dur- 
ing Operation MARKET, IS September 1944. 

of 191 Wacos the division would receive 382 and 
to this were added three more carrying the loads 
of gliders which had aborted earlier. In addition, 
the low attrition rate in the previous missions made 
it possible to increase the number of gliders going 
to the 82d Division from 209 to 219, the resupply 
aircraft for that division from 142 to 167, and the 
planes carrying Polish paratroops to Arnhem from 
108 to 1 14. The RAF would send to Arnhem a 
parachute resupply mission of 163 planes and a 
glider mission of 52 planes, including seven added 
to bring in replacements for gliders which had 
aborted on previous missions. 44 

Weather conditions proved to be much worse 
than had been predicted. Throughout the day 
haze and stratus blanketed the Grantham area, and 
great masses of low cloud persisted over the Chan- 
nel and the Low Countries. Along most of the 
troop carrier route haze limited visibility to about 

half a mile. The only area on the route with even 
relatively good weather was that around Arnhem. 4K 

Lavish air support had again been planned, but, 
because of the widespread bad weather, very few 
of the support missions could be flown. Escort 
and cover duties between England and the southern 
IP near Gheel had been assigned to 15 Spitfire 
squadrons of ADGB, but only one of those squad- 
rons carried out its mission as planned, and only 
68 of the Spits made sorties. The rest had to turn 
back. Of seven groups of P-51's which the Eighth 
Air Force was to furnish for perimeter patrols and 
area cover,* five groups were able to reach the 
battle area and make a total of about 1 80 sorties. 
Two of these groups had to battle German fighters 
which were seeking to penetrate the perimeter. At 
1445 near Wesel the 364th Group sighted and 
engaged more than 30 enemy aircraft. It reported 
the destruction of five of them and the loss of one 
of its own. The 357th Fighter Group, which had 
54 planes on patrol in the Arnhem area, had four 
such clashes. It encountered 25 Messerschmitts 
at 1610 hours, about 30 Focke Wolfes at 1620, 
between 20 and 30 assorted fighters at 1705, and 
15 Messerschmitts at 1720. The group claimed to 
have shot down 18 of the enemy and lost five of 
its aircraft. Except for the fight near Wesel these 
air battles were fought after the troop carrier 
serials had left the combat area, but they undoubt- 
edly saved the airborne troops some punishment. 
If the Nazis had struck earlier, their chances of 
getting at the troop carriers would have been bet- 
ter, since because of the weather two P-5 1 groups 
on area patrol were late in getting into position. 

The Eighth Air Force had also agreed to send 
two P-47 groups and the rocket squadron for 
anti-flak work south of 's Hertogenbosch, but they 
were unable to make any sorties. Flak neutraliza- 
tion beyond 's Hertogenbosch for missions to Nij- 
megen and Arnhem was a responsibility of Ninth 
Air Force units based in northern France. These 
dispatched 171 aircraft, but few of the planes 
reached the front, and none of them went into 
action. The principal reason for their failure was 
the impossibility of attacking ground positions 
through low clouds and thick haze. Thus weather 

•Escort duty between 's Hertogenbosch and Arnhem had 
originally been delegated to the Ninth Air Force, but on the 
morning of the 19th all responsibility for protection of the 
iroop carriers from air action beyond Gheel was given to Eighth 
Air Force. 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 129 

had prevented any effective operations against 
antiaircraft positions. 4 " 

D Plus 2, Eindhoven Sector 

An encouraging feature of D plus 2 was the 
progress made by the British ground forces. At 
0615 their lead tanks rumbled over the bridge at 
Zon. Half an hour later they rolled into Veghel. 
By 0830 they had burst across the 10 miles of 
hostile territory north of Veghel and made contact 
with the 82d Divison at Grave. This was the sort 
of dash Montgomery had hoped for. 

However, the contact of both American divi- 
sions with Dempsey's army still hung by a thread. 
Therefore the 101st Division had to retain re- 
sponsibility for the whole long stretch of road from 
Veghel to Eindhoven. The 506th PIR, reinforced 
by a couple of squadrons of British tanks, held 
the sector south of Zon. Although the Luftwaffe 
bombed Eindhoven heavily that night, the regi- 
ment was outside the town and had only a handful 
of casualties. The 501st PIR continued to have a 
relatively easy time around Veghel and sent a 
company on patrol to Dinter four miles northeast 
of that town. The 502d sent its second battalion 
at 0600 to make another assault on the bridge at 
Best, but once again the attack was beaten back. 
At 1415 the whole regiment, excepting the 1st 
Battalion, which was still defending St. Oedenrode, 
was thrown into a coordinated attack on the enemy 
position. This attack, supported by a squadron of 
British tanks, smashed through to victory over 
numerically superior opponents. By 1600 the 
paratroops had taken the bridge and with it fifteen 
88-mm. guns and 1,056 prisoners. Over 300 Ger- 
man dead were found on the field. 47 

The glider mission flown on D plus 2 by the 
53d Wing and 442d Group for the 101st Division 
took off between about 1130 and 1320 in ten 
serials containing 385 plane-glider combinations. 
The weather over the assembly area around Green- 
ham Common was barely passable with visibility 
poor and clouds closing in at about 1,200 feet. 
Beyond Hatfield conditions deteriorated rapidly, 
and before reaching the coast the serials ran into 
deep, dense clouds in which visibility was zero. 
Glider pilots unable to see their tugs had to guide 
their craft by the tilt of the tow rope and by tele- 
phone conversation with the plane crew. At most 
points over the Channel it was possible to get 

under the clouds by going down to about 200 feet, 
but even then visibility was generally half a mile 
or less. 

Many gliders broke loose, cut loose* or were 
brought back; the whole last serial was called back 
after it was well out over the Channel. Of these 
gliders, 80 landed more or less smoothly in Eng- 
land and two in the last serial collided over their 
base, killing their pilots and six troops. Another 
17 gliders had to be ditched in the Channel, but 
were located by rescue launches in time to save all 
personnel. During the flight over friendly Belgium 
31 more gliders broke loose or were released, all 
presumably as a result of the weather. Three of 
them crashed, killing five men, injuring four, and 
putting two jeeps out of action. The rest landed 
well, and all the troops and materiel aboard them 
reached the 101st within a week. 

Contrary to expectations, the route instead of 
passing over the new salient ran just west of it, 
and with visibility so low, the airmen probably 
blundered over some strongpoints they would 
normally have avoided. In spite of clouds and mist 
Nazi gunners sent up intense and accurate light 
flak from Rethy, Moll, and Best. Small-arms fire, 
probably aided by the fact that the mission had to 
fly low, also took its toll. The troops on LZ W 
could see the formations approaching over the 
battlefield between Best and the zone and could 
certainly have saved some losses by recommend- 
ing a detour if a ground-air radio had been pro- 
vided. As it was 17 aircraft, 7 percent of those 
making sorties, were destroyed, f and 5 others 
had to be salvaged after landing at friendly bases. 
Almost all had received the fatal damage before 
reaching the LZ. Among the crews 31 men were 
dead or missing. Approximately 170 of the re- 
turning planes had been damaged, but this ratio, 
some 70 percent of those exposed, is offset by the 
fact that in most cases the damage was slight. 

About half of the pilots whose planes were shot 
down managed to release their gliders on or close 
to LZ W. Among the bravest and the luckiest were 
1st Lt. Jesse M. Harrison of the 435th Group and 
his co-pilot. Although their aircraft was already 
on fire, they brought their glider over the zone for 
a good release, then jumped through the flames, 

*When a plane banked in the overcast its glider was apt to 
turn on its back and go out of control, necessitating release. 

tAnother 17 landed at Brussels, partly because of damage 
and partly because of the weather. These planes were at first 
listed as missing. 

130 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

and lived. Many gliders were shot loose, broke 
loose or were prematurely released as a result of 
enemy action. One squadron in the next-to-last 
serial released 15 gliders by mistake nearly 10 
miles west of the zone. Since the ceiling in the 
release area was about 600 feet and visibility less 
than a mile, the wonder is not that they went 
wrong, but that so many went right. In all, 16 
gliders landed safely in enemy territory, their 
occupants and most of their cargoes eventually 
reaching the 101st Division. Another 26 Wacos 
were unaccounted for, almost certainly because 
they had come down in hostile territory and all 
aboard them had been killed or captured. 

Of 213 gliders reaching the drop zone one was 
shot down, two or three crashed, and 209 made 
good landings with very little damage, a remark- 
able performance under the circumstances even 
if some allowance be made for the smooth and 
spacious character of the landing zone. Landings 
began at 1437 and ended about 1600. 

The mission had carried 2,310 troops, of whom 
1,341 reached their destination in safety, 11 were 
dead, 11 were injured, and 157 were missing. 
The remainder had been returned to England or 
landed safely somewhere short of the zone. Out of 
136 jeeps loaded into the gliders 79 arrived at the 
zone in good condition, as did 49 out of 77 trailers 
and 40 out of 68 guns. By far the most depleted 
unit was the 907th Field Artillery Battalion, which 
had been carried by the last two serials and one 
flight of the serial preceding. Of its 89 gliders 57 
had been returned to England, 4 had ditched, and 
about 17 were missing or down in enemy territory. 
Only 24 men of the battalion and none of its twelve 
105-mm. howitzers were landed in the vicinity- of 
LZ W.* The other units carried were the 81st 
Airborne Antitank Battalion, the 321st Glider 
Field Artillery Battalion, and portions of the 327th 
Glider Infantry Regiment, the 377th Parachute 
Field Artillery Battalion, and divisional artillery 
headquarters. These came in at between 55 and 
95 percent of strength. The antitank battalion had 
on hand only 14 of the 24 guns with which it had 

*In order to give the airborne more firepower the 105-mm. 
howitzer had been redesigned so it could enter a C-47 or a 
Waco without being disassembled. Its dimensions had been 
cut from 238 x 82 x 60 inches to 157 x 67 x 55 inches, and 
through the use of light alloys its weight had been reduced from 
4,235 pounds to 2,500 pounds. The 907th had been chosen to 
give the new weapon its first combat test in MARKET, so the 
ill-fortune of the serials carrying it was particularly regrettable. 
(Maj T. F. Walkowicz, Future Airborne Armies, A Report for 
the AAF Scientific Advisory Group, Sep 45, pp. 21, 59 in AU 
Library M-30484-S) 

started, but the 377th Field Artillery had all 12 of 
its 75-mm. howitzers in position and ready to fire 
by 1710, an hour and forty minutes after it landed. 

The guns which did arrive proved their worth 
almost immediately. About 1700 a German force 
with tanks and self-propelled guns struck at Zon 
from the east and got to within a few hundred 
yards of the Zon bridge, which the 502d PIR had 
left lightly defended while it concentrated on win- 
ning its battle at Best and guarding its landing 
zone. Since by that time the landings were over 
and victory had been won at Best, the 502d had 
ample resources to counter the threat. Antitank 
guns of the 81st Battalion knocked out two Ger- 
man tanks, and the rest retreated. Had this thrust 
come a couple of hours earlier, it might have 
achieved the destruction of the bridge, a most 
serious possibility. 48 

D Plus 2, Nijmegen Sector 

At Nijmegen on the morning of the 19th the 
8 2d Division eagerly awaited the coming of the 
British tanks. Browning had told Gavin on the 
previous evening that the Nijmegen bridge must 
be taken on the 19th or, at the latest, very early 
on the 20th. With tank support this seemed possi- 
ble. Paradoxically, although the bridge was the 
main objective of his division, Gavin could spare 
only one battalion to attack it. He had a 25-mile 
perimeter to defend, and the glider-borne rein- 
forcements scheduled to join him that day failed 
to arrive. 

Why the Germans had not already blasted the 
highway bridge at Nijmegen is uncertain. General 
Gavin, who should know, claims that Dutch guer- 
rilla fighters kept the Nazis from placing charges 
on the span. The resistance forces in Nijmegen 
certainly did a magnificent job of harassing the 
garrison, but the Germans did have access to the 
bridge and could probably have blown it had they 
resolved to do so. This lends weight to a post-war 
statement by General Student that Model, who 
believed the bridge could be held, had prohibited 
its demolition. 

The medium tanks of the Guards moved over 
secondary roads to the Maas-Waal Canal and 
crossed on the bridge at Heumen about 1000. An 
hour later a battalion of tanks, a company of Brit- 
ish armored infantry, and the 2d Battalion of the 
505th PIR headed north to make a renewed bid 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 131 

for the Nijmegen bridges. They attacked early in 
the afternoon and penetrated to the center of the 
town without opposition except for some artillery 
fire. There they split, one paratroop company and 
seven tanks heading for the railway bridge, while 
the rest struck at the road bridge. Neither group 
succeeded. The main body ran into forces en- 
sconced in revamped Dutch fortifications in a park 
at the south end of the bridge and were stopped 
about 400 yards short of their goal. Repeated 
assaults lasting well into the night produced noth- 
ing but heavy losses. At the close of its third day 
of operations the 8 2d Division had 649 casualties 
in its hospital at Groesbeek and over 150 dead. 49 

Lowering clouds over the bases of the 50th and 
52d Wings forced them to postpone the glider mis- 
sion which had been prepared to deliver the 325th 
Glider Infantry Regiment and some other troops 
to the 82d Division at 1000 on the 19th. A few 
planes and gliders got off the ground but were 
recalled almost immediately. 

The resupply mission of 167 planes, which was 
to drop 265 tons of supplies to the 82d, did some- 
what better, because it staged from the bases 
of the 53d Wing in southern England and two 
serials had been sent to those bases on the day 
before. One serial of 25 aircraft flown by the 
439th Group ran into heavy cloud off the Belgian 
coast and broke up. One of its planes followed 
the gliders going to LZ W and dropped its bundles 
near there. Another got far enough to be damaged 
by antiaircraft fire.* The rest apparently turned 
back before reaching the Continent. The other 
serial, 35 planes of the 61st Group, began taking 
off from Aldermaston at 1250. They flew across 
the Channel through dense haze under a 200-foot 
ceiling. Over Holland the weather improved 
greatly, but flak was thick, and no friendly fighters 
were sighted north of Gheel. Two planes were 
shot down, one west of Veghel, and another shortly 
after making its drop. Fifteen were damaged, and 
five men were missing, including a quartermaster 
bundle-dropper who fell out the door of his 

As a result of its struggle for LZ's N and T on 
the previous day, the 8 2d Division had decided to 
use DZ O as both drop and landing zone for the 
time being, so its pathfinders set out their aids on 
that zone. Although one squadron claimed it got 

*One of the crew bailed out in the mistaken belief the plane 
was about to blow up. 

no response, the Eureka was probably functioning 
effectively. The panels and smoke on the zone 
were clearly visible. One pilot dropped his bun- 
dles prematurely near 's Hertogenbosch, and an- 
other straggled off and followed a British formation 
to Arnhem. However, 32 planes reached the 
vicinity of DZ O at 1530. 

Remembering their stinging reception on the 
previous day, the troop carriers made a fast, high 
drop. Authorized to go in at 1,000 feet, they let 
go their bundles at speeds up to 135 miles an hour 
from as high as 2,500 feet. The results were de- 
cidedly unsatisfactory. The airborne called the 
amount recovered negligible, and official estimates 
put it at only 20 percent of the quantity dropped. 
The failure of this mission was a real blow to the 
82d Division, since it was becoming critically 
short of both food and ammunition. 50 

D Pius 2, Arnhem Sector 

To the British troops at Arnhem 19 September 
was a day of disaster. Their attacks failed, and by 
nightfall it was evident that the initiative had 
passed to the enemy. 

At dawn on the 19th a last attempt was made to 
break through to the bridge. The Staffordshires 
advanced down the Heelsum-Arnhem highway, 
followed by 11 Parachute Battalion, while the 
remnants of 1 and 3 Parachute Battalions moved 
along the riverbank, which was only a couple of 
hundred yards to the right of the road. They 
battled onward for about half a mile to a point 
called The Monastery, where after exhausting then- 
supply of antitank ammunition, they were over- 
run by tanks. They fell back, engaged enemy 
forces flanking them on the slopes of Den Brink, 
and were again terribly mauled by mortar fire and 
tanks, followed up by infantry. Barely 400 sur- 
vivors of the four battalions were able to withdraw 
to Oosterbeek, a mile further west, where they 
had the support of divisional artillery. 

At 0500 that morning 4 Parachute Brigade had 
attacked from the Wolfhezen area in an effort to 
take high ground at Koepel, just beyond which 
lay Drop Point V. The attack stalled more than 
half a mile west of Koepel, leaving the drop point 
in enemy hands. By mid-afternoon it was all too 
clear that the brigade could get no further, so it 
was ordered to fall back on Wolfhezen and thence 
south to the main divisional position around 

132 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

Hartestein. Thus it happened that the gliders 
which were to land on LZ L, a mile east of Wolf- 
hezen, came down at 1600 in the front lines of a 
force attempting to disengage under heavy 

Perhaps even worse than these reverses was the 
fact that the 114 planes of the 52d Wing which 
were to carry the bulk of the Polish Parachute 
Brigade to DZ K south of the Arnhem bridge were 
grounded by the impenetrable overcast in their 
area. Had the Poles arrived at 1000 that morning 
as planned, they might conceivably have saved the 
bridge or at least rescued what was left of 2 
Parachute Battalion. It was not until that after- 
noon that German tanks were able to close in on 
Frost's men and begin systematic destruction of 
their positions dominating the north end of the 
span, and up to that time the Nazis appear to have 
had few troops and no tanks on the south bank of 
the river. When the Poles did come two days 
later, bridge and battalion were lost beyond 

Also postponed were glider missions by 80 
American and 10 British planes to land the 878th 
(US) Aviation Engineer Battalion on LZ's X and 
L. Their gliders stood ready; the weather at their 
bases was favorable; but the land on which to 
build an airstrip outside Arnhem had not been won 
and, indeed, never was won; so the engineers 
waited, and their planes stood idle. 

The British were able to send out a resupply 
mission and a small glider mission from their 
bases in southern England, but those, too, were 
jinxed. They dispatched 35 Horsas carrying Polish 
headquarters and artillerymen to LZ L, and also 
8 to LZ X and one to LZ S with cargoes returned 
from previous missions. Of these gliders, five 
broke loose over England, two over the sea and 
five more over Belgium and Holland. The pilots 
reported seeing considerable flak, especially near 
the zones, and had no fighter support at all. One 
glider was shot loose and another was so damaged 
it had to be released. None of the tug aircraft 
were lost, but nine of them were damaged. 

The pathfinders had all their equipment includ- 
ing Eureka working nicely on LZ L and 28 pilots 
reported releasing gliders there. However, the 
Horsas had to land in the middle of a battle. Some 
were hit by shells and others had to be abandoned 
with their cargoes. A majority of the Polish troops 
were able to report for duty, but losses were heavy. 

Only two or three of the gliders bound for LZ's S 
and X reached the Arnhem area, and they prob- 
ably fell into enemy hands, since little, if any, of 
those zones was held by the British. 

As for the resupply mission, every effort had 
been made to deflect it from Drop Point V to a 
safe point south of Hartestein, but in vain. A 
message sent on the 18th was not received. The 
airborne set up a Eureka in a tower at the new 
point, but that could be used only intermittently 
for fear of exhausting the battery. Although about 
half of the pilots interrogating it reported success, 
it seems to have done them singularly little good. 
This may have been partly due to the set being 
turned on late and partly to the tendency of the 
blips on a Rebecca screen to merge when it was 
within about two miles of its Eureka. The old 
drop point was less than a mile and a half north- 
east of the new one. Smoke, panels, and Very 
lights were also used, but because of trees sur- 
rounding the new DP an aerial observer would 
have had to be almost directly overhead to see 
them. Almost none of the pilots on the mission did 
pass close enough to the spot to sight the visual 

The upshot of these failures in communication 
was that the resupply mission headed for its 
original DP, crossed the enemy lines at about 
1,000 feet through intense flak, and dropped most 
of its supplies in the Koepel area. Out of 100 
Stirlings of 38 Group and 63 Dakotas of 46 
Group, 13 were destroyed and 97 damaged. The 
heroic persistence of the pilots, one of whom won 
the Victoria Gross, only ensured that their loads 
would go to the Germans. Out of 388 tons of 
supplies dropped, only 21 tons, less than six per- 
cent, was recovered. Most of this was probably 
from five planes which dropped their loads by 
mistake near Wolfhezen and from an extra couple 
of Stirlings which had been sent to drop on DZ L 
and appear to have done so. 

By nightfall on 19 September the main body of 
the British airborne, terribly short of ammunition, 
food and water, held an area of less than two 
square miles between Oosterbeek and Hartestein 
on the east and Heveadorp and Bilderberg on the 
west. The glider battalion which had been with 
4 Parachute Brigade entered the perimeter that 
night. The brigade itself was still near Wolfhezen 
and in danger of being cut off. 

General Urquhart, seeing no hope of rescuing 

Market— The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 133 

his battalion at the Arnhem bridge, decided to 
have the Polish paratroops dropped on the south 
bank of the river opposite his positions at 
Heveadorp, since the ferry there might yet be 
used to effect a crossing. Messages requesting this 
change, use of the Hartestein drop point for sup- 
ply drops, and selection of LZ Z for further glider 
landings were sent and reached Eastcote. It seems 
doubtful whether the division actually held LZ Z 
at the end of the 19th, but the enemy in that sector 
had been inactive enough to make occupation of 
the zone seem feasible. The power of German 
attacks on the north and east made it certain the 
other zones could not be used. 51 

The Balance for D Plus 2 

Whether fair weather on the 19th would have 
brought success to MARKET is far from certain. 
All one can say is that it might possibly have done 
so. The arrival of the 325th Glider Infantry Regi- 
ment at 1000 hours as planned might have enabled 
the 82d Division to take the Nijmegen bridge that 
day. Had the Polish brigade dropped at the south 
end of the Arnhem bridge they might have been 
able to secure it and join forces with Frost's bat- 
talion before the latter had been crippled by 
losses. Even so, they might not have been able 
to hold the north end of the bridge against Ger- 
man tanks and artillery for the time which it would 
probably have taken the British ground forces to 
get there from Nijmegen. What is certain is that 
after the 19th the Allied chances of getting a 
bridgehead across the Rhine were very, very small. 

D Plus 3 

The fortunes of the airborne divisions on the 
20th varied greatly. The 101st continued to have 
a fairly easy time. Its only important action was 
the repulse of an attack by the 107th Panzer 
Brigade* from Nunen toward the Zon bridge at 
0630. This came near enough to interrupt traffic 
before being driven back. A battalion of the 506th 
PIR riding British tanks, tried to intercept the 
Nazis' retreat, but they got away with little loss. 
In the Veghel area, the 1st Battalion of the 501st 
PIR occupied Dinter and pushed on to Heeswijk, 

*This unit had been on its way from East Prussia to Aachen 
by rail on 17 September but had been diverted to Venlo for 
use against the 101st Division. 

some five miles northeast of Veghel. The Ger- 
man losses of about 40 killed and 418 captured 
in this operation and the fact that almost all the 
captives were from improvised units composed of 
air force personnel led the 501st momentarily to 
the rash conclusion that it had destroyed the 
enemy forces in its vicinity. 52 

For the 82d Division 20 September was a 
strenuous day on which, while undertaking the 
capture of the Nijmegen bridge, it had also to beat 
back the first major counterattack against the 
Allied corridor. The attack was made by the 6th 
Parachute Division. After pushing the 508th PIR 
out of advanced positions near Wyler during the 
morning one regiment supported by armor at- 
tacked it at Beek about noon, while at Mook on 
the southern side of the perimeter another regi- 
ment with strong artillery support drove against 
the lines of the 505th PIR. In bitter fighting, 
which raged far into the night, the Germans pene- 
trated as much as 1,000 yards in both sectors but 
failed in their purpose, which was to pinch off the 
whole east end of the area held by the 82d Divi- 
sion and seize the Groesbeek ridge. The situation 
that night was so critical that 185 glider pilots 
were hurried to the front near Mook to reinforce 
the 505th PIR. 

While holding off a German division on its 
right, the 82d jabbed ferociously to its left. On 
the night of the 19th Browning, Gavin, and Lt. 
Gen. B. G. Horrocks of XXX Corps had worked 
out a plan to take the Nijmegen bridge from the 
rear by sending the 504th PIR across the Waal in 
assault boats about a mile downstream from the 
town. At the same time a new frontal attack by 
the 2d Battalion of the 505th and tanks of the 
Grenadier Guards would hit the south end of the 

Early on the 20th British troops of 32 Brigade 
and the Coldstream Guards relieved units of the 
504th which were holding the bridges at Grave 
and Heumen, and the regiment assembled in 
woods east of the Honinghutie bridge. It had seen 
little fighting since D-day and was in good shape. 
At 1400 the battalion of the 505th engaged the 
German defenders in the strong points south of 
the bridge, and at 1500, exactly on schedule, the 
first boats, carrying the 3d Battalion of the 504th, 
pushed out into the river. The 1st battalion was 
to follow with the 2d standing in reserve. 

At that point the stream was about 1,000 feet 

134 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater Market— The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

across, and the enemy held the opposite shore in 
strength. Artillery, mortars and British fighter- 
bombers had hammered their positions and smoke 
had been used to obscure the crossing. Neverthe- 
less, their fire was effective. Many men were hit 
before the boats left the bank, and only 1 1 of the 
26 boats in the first wave got back to make a 
second trip. Not much more than a battalion of 
paratroops got across, but their peerless fighting 
qualities enabled them to sweep through the Ger- 
man defenders. By 1600 they had a beachhead 
1,000 yards deep. By 1700 they had taken the 
north end of the railroad bridge. By 1830 they 
had the highway bridge itself under fire. At that 
moment five British tanks broke through onto the 
south end of the bridge. Two were hit, but the 
others, raking the span from end to end, abruptly 
terminated the battle. The Nijmegen bridge had 
been taken and none too soon. Nazi tanks head- 
ing south had begun crossing the Arnhem bridge 
three hours earlier. 58 

At Arnhem, where the day was one of defeat 
in all sectors for the British airborne, the Germans 
had won access to the bridge during the afternoon 
after pointblank fire from tanks and artillery had 
reduced Frost's positions to a flaming shambles. 
The two battalions of 4 Parachute Brigade isolated 
near Wolfhezen had to run a terrible gauntlet to 
get back to the division, and only about 130 of 
their men reached the Hartestein perimeter. Into 
that perimeter the Germans, seeing they had their 
foe at bay, directed all the artillery and mortar fire 
they could muster until mortar shells were pouring 
down at a rate of 50 a minute. At intervals Ger- 
man infantry, supported by tanks, would close in 
for the kill. Their attacks did not break the lines 
of 1 Airborne, but bit by bit they bent them in- 
ward. The only good news for the division was a 
message received that night that the Nijmegen 
bridge had been captured intact. 54 

As revised on the evening of the 19th, plans for 
troop carrier operations on D plus 3 called for all 
missions to take the southern route and for four 
of them to arrive simultaneously at their zones at 
1500 hours. Again the timing was dictated by 
predictions of extensive fog throughout the fore- 
noon. The original southern route was modified 
to permit the missions to fly up the British salient 
and pass close to Eindhoven with missions to the 
Arnhem and Nijmegen sectors using Schijndel as 
their IP. At the last minute Eindhoven was made 

IP for all airborne missions that day, Schijndel 
being regarded as too hot a spot. 

In an effort to make up for lost time 1,047 air- 
craft and 405 gliders were to be dispatched, with 
all the gliders and 317 resupply craft going down 
the center lane to DZ/LZ O for the 82d Division. 
A 51 -plane paratroop and resupply mission for 
the 101st would follow the right lane to DZ W, 
and 114 planes of the postponed Polish paratroop 
mission to Arnhem would use the left lane. Over- 
head would fly 160 RAF planes with supplies for 
1 Airborne Division. 

Escort as far as Schijndel was to be furnished 
by Air Defense, Great Britain. The Eighth Air 
Force was to fly its usual perimeter patrols be- 
tween Maastricht, Wesel, Apeldoorn and Zwolle, 
supply area cover beyond the IP, and attack flak 
positions between the IP and Nijmegen. The 
Ninth Air Force was to neutralize flak batteries 
between the IP and Arnhem, but it does not seem 
to have gotten a clear statement of its assignment 
until 1430 on the 20th. 55 

Once again unfavorable weather greviously 
curtailed the troop carrier operations. On the 
morning of the 20th the weathermen decided that 
the overcast would lift later than they had thought, 
so arrival time for the missions was set back from 
1500 to 1700 hours. Then in view of the urgent 
need of the British at Arnhem it was decided to 
split the RAF resupply mission and send 67 of its 
planes to drop at 1345. Arrival time for the other 
missions was moved to 1720. 

Although at take-off time ceilings over eastern 
England were between 1,000 and 2,000 feet and 
visibility was only one or two miles, the first wave 
of 67 Stirlings departed for Arnhem. Area cover 
was provided by 46 P-51's of Eighth Air Force, 
while ADGB furnished a total of 65 planes from 
3 Spitfire and 3 Mustang squadrons for escort and 
anti-flak operations. Visibility in the Arnhem area 
was poor, making an already difficult operation 
even more difficult. One Spitfire and one Mustang 
were lost. 

The later missions were given escort and cover 
to the IP by 17 squadrons of Spitfires, of which 
one squadron ran into bad weather over the Chan- 
nel and turned back. The rest made 173 sorties 
but saw no action and had no losses. The Eighth 
Air Force had five P-5 1 groups on area cover be- 
yond the IP and six flying the perimeter. These 
flew 430 uneventful sorties, losing only one plane 

Market— The Airborne Invasion of Holland Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 135 

and that by accident. Because the Ninth Air 
Force was unable to contribute its quota of fight- 
ers, the Eighth had to handle all flak suppression 
beyond the IP. It sent four groups of P-47's and 
the rocket squadron to do the job. They flew 179 
sorties, but, hampered by bad visibility and by 
lack of briefing in the case of those substituting 
for Ninth Air Force units, they were able to claim 
only two gun positions destroyed and two others 
damaged. They had no losses and not very much 
damage.* 56 

The second wave of British supply planes to 
Arnhem numbered 97 aircraft. Since available 
British sources lump this drop and the earlier one 
together, they must be treated as one. Out of 100 
Stirlings and 64 Dakotas dispatched only 2 
Stirlings aborted. Flak was reported as very heavy, 
especially in the target area. It brought down 9 
planes and damaged 62. Of the remainder, 30 
Stirlings were scheduled to make their drop on 
DZ Z, and their pilots reported doing so. That 
zone was entirely held by the Germans, and all 
that was dropped on or near it probably fell into 
their hands. At the Hartestein drop point a Eu- 
reka and visual aids had been set out despite the 
incessant bombardment, and 122 pilots reported 
dropping supplies there. Although only 13 of 
them picked up the Eureka and 32 sighted visual 
aids (Very lights being much the most effective, 
probably because they rose above tree-top level), 
results were decidedly better than on the day 

Out of 386 tons of supplies dropped, about 300 
tons was intended for the Hartestein drop point 
and 41 tons or about 14 percent of this was re- 
ported as collected. Considering that recovery 
was possible only within an area of about one 
square mile, and that in the turmoil of battle much 
that was recovered was never reported, the pre- 
cision of the drop was greater than the statistics 
indicate. Assuredly, the rations which were recov- 
ered were worth their weight in gold to the air- 
borne, most of whom had had almost nothing to 
eat for 24 hours or more. 

The Polish paratroop mission was again post- 
poned because of fog, which persisted until late 
in the day in the Grantham area. The planes were 
loaded and warmed up, ready to go if there was 
the slightest break in the overcast, but the oppor- 
tunity never came. Finally, five minutes before 

*Two P-51's and one P-47 got back but had to be salvaged. 

take-off time the mission was delayed another 24 
hours. 57 

The big glider mission marshalled for the 8 2d 
Division was also grounded by the fog in the 
Grantham area. Fortunately the resupply mission 
to that division had been delegated to the 53d 
Wing, and its bases in the south were compara- 
tively clear. Beginning about 1430 the wing put 
310 planes in the air with the 434th, 435th, and 
438th Groups contributing one serial each and 
the 436th and 437th Groups two apiece.* They 
carried a cargo of 441 tons, of which the greater 
part was ammunition. 

One plane had to turn back with pararack 
trouble. The others flew over the southern route, 
close to Eindhoven, past Best, then up the highway 
to DZ O. Fighter cover was good, and in spite 
of the lack of antiflak activity, ground fire was 
conspicuous by its absence. Some serials could re- 
port that not a shot was fired at them. Not a plane 
was lost and only six were damaged. This experi- 
ence, so different from that of the British mission 
that day, can be attributed to the fact that the 
Americans were over friendly territory almost all 
the way to their drop zone. 

The lead serial reached DZ O at 1648, and the 
others followed at extremely irregular intervals, 
some arriving almost simultaneously, others as 
much as 20 minutes apart, with the last one turn- 
ing up at 1749. In addition, most of the serials 
were loose or broken, probably because of bad 
weather en route. However, since the pilots and 
navigators of the 53d Wing had become fairly 
familiar with the southern route as far as Best, 
and the way from there up the highroad to the 
Grave bridge was unmistakable, none of the 
stragglers lost their way. 

As might be expected, the drop was disorgan- 
ized and spasmodic with each serial or separate 
element using its own tactics. Some released their 
bundles as low as 400 feet, others as high as 1,800 
feet. Although there was the usual difficulty get- 
ting bundles out the door in time, and 14 para- 
packs stuck, over 99 percent of the cargo was 
delivered. Its concentration, however, was most 
unsatisfactory. The bundles landed in a pattern 
about two miles wide and six miles long centered 
considerably northwest of the zone. The 8 2d Divi- 

*One additional aircraft towed a Waco, which had been on 
call, with a ton and half of supplies, making the total dis- 
patched 311. 

136 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

sion reported recovering 60 percent of these sup- 
plies with Dutch assistance, and according to some 
estimates 80 percent was ultimately recovered, but 
the hunt was long and difficult. It was sheer good 
luck that most of the supplies landed in friendly 
territory. The value of the mission was very great 
nevertheless. The supply dumps of the 82d were 
running low, and it had not yet received any sup- 
plies by road. Indeed, the first truck convoys for 
the division had just reached the Meuse-Escaut 
Canal; some of those first trucks had been loaded 
with shells of the wrong caliber; and others by 
some strange oversight were empty. 58 

The 101st Division, being in firm contact with 
the Allied ground forces, had much less need of 
supply by air. However, 35 aircraft of the 442d 
and 439th Groups took off from Greenham Com- 
mon with 17 tons of supplies for that division. 
They flew unharmed over the new southern route 
to DZ W and dropped their loads at 1748. Again 
the drop was inaccurate, and only about 30 per- 
cent of the bundles were reported as recovered.* 

A miniature paratroop mission was also flown 
to DZ W by 12 planes of the 442d Group carrying 
Battery B of the 377th Parachute Field Artillery. 
The planes had to fly to Ramsbury to take on their 
load, 125 artillerymen and six 75-mm. howitzers. 
Somewhat late in arriving, the planes were not 
loaded until about 1500, and in the turmoil the 
pilots were not informed of the changes made in 
the southern route. They therefore took the D-day 
route west of the salient and ran into intense light 
flak and small-arms fire which damaged five of the 
planes, one severely. The mission did not reach 
the zone until 1831 by which time the sun was 
setting and the haze was growing thick. In the 
face of these difficulties the pilots made an accu- 
rate and very compact drop from perfect forma- 
tion. An hour after its jump the battery had 
assembled 119 men and almost all its equipment, 
including five howitzers, ready for action. The 
other howitzer was ready by morning. 59 

At the close of D plus 3, the Allied commanders 
believed success was still within their reach, pro- 
vided that the ground forces could strike north 
from the captured Nijmegen bridge and reach the 
British airborne troops at Arnhem next day. So 

*This figure represents an average for several categories of 
supplies, a few items in one category being counted as equal 
to tons in another. It is further distorted by the fact that 
hardly any of the rations which were dropped were reported 
as collected. 

far as they knew the Arnhem bridge was still in 
British hands. Defense of the salient against Ger- 
man counterattacks was obviously a prerequisite 
to a sustained advance toward Arnhem, but no 
serious threat to the salient was in sight. Troop 
carrier delivery of the Polish brigade and the 325th 
Glider Infantry was expected to offset British losses 
at Arnhem and provide the weary 82d Division 
with fresh infantry for either defense or offense. 

D Plus 4 

On 21 September ground operations went uni- 
formly well south of Nijmegen and very badly 
north of it. By evening British units of VIII Corps 
advancing east of Eindhoven had taken the town 
of Geldrop and pushed on to the Wilhelmina 
Canal, thus belatedly freeing most of the 506th 
PIR for use elsewhere. In the St. Oedenrode area 
German activity was limited to one small, sharp, 
probing attack in the afternoon. The 501st PIR 
continued to expand westward from Veghel, and 
its 1st Battalion entered Schijndel with only scanty 
resistance. The 8 2d Division had to cope with 
continued attacks in the Beek and Mook sectors, 
but these made little headway and by noon had 

On the previous evening, as soon as the capture 
of the Nijmegen bridge seemed assured, Browning 
and Horrocks had agreed to rush forward a tank 
brigade of the Guards at dawn to take the Arnhem 
bridge before the paratroops at the north end were 
overwhelmed. The attack, too late to save the 
bridge, was foredoomed to failure. Between the 
Waal and the Rhine the road and railroad ran on 
embankments bordered by marshy, heavily ditched 
land impassable to armor. Near Ressen, scarcely 
three miles north of Nijmegen, the Guards were 
stopped by well-sited antitank guns which smashed 
every attempt to move up the causeway. Attempts 
to try other routes met a similar fate. The tanks 
could not leave the embankments to get at the 
guns. The radio of their air support party was out 
of order, so they could not call on air to remove 
the obstacles, although British fighter-bombers 
were overhead. As for infantry with which to 
storm the German positions, they had none. 

The 82d Division, exhausted by four days of 
fighting, and still lacking the 325th Glider Regi- 
ment, had all it could do to hold its own lines. 
The nearest British infantry, the 43 Division, did 

t— The Airborne Invasion of Holland Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 137 

reach Nijmegen that day, but too late to participate 
in the northward thrust. It had taken three days 
to move less than 60 miles by truck. One cause of 
this lagging was the excessive caution of British 
drivers, who caused interminable traffic jams by 
refusing to pull off the narrow road onto the grass 
for fear of mines. Sharing the widespread convic- 
tion that the war was practically won, they could 
not sense the need for haste — nor, it seems, could 
their commanders. Other and inevitable delays 
had been imposed by the Luftwaffe night attack 
on Eindhoven, which blocked the streets for 
several hours, by the German tank attacks at Zon 
on the 19th and 20th, and occasionally by shelling 
at other points. 

Meanwhile, outside Arnhem 1 Airborne Divi- 
sion stubbornly defended its perimeter between 
Hartestein and Heveadorp. Tanks overran its 
lines at some points, and at others infantry charges 
had to be met with the bayonet. Food, water, and 
ammunition were increasingly scarce, and the 
ammunition dump, set afire by shelling, was saved 
only by the most strenuous efforts. Still the divi- 
sion fought on.* In the city the remnants of the 
paratroops at the bridge made one last attack at 
0500 in the hope of winning defensible positions 
and after the failure of that effort scattered to 
escape as best they could. 60 

The plans laid on the 20th for airborne opera- 
tions on D plus 4 called for 117 British resupply 
sorties to a drop point near Hartestein about 200 
yards east of that used on D plus 3. To reduce the 
flak hazard the planes were to be sent in four 
waves, really separate missions, with the first arriv- 
ing at 1315 and the last not until 1615. The 
American troop carriers were to send 806 planes. 
Of these, 114 carrying Polish paratroops would 
fly in the left lane. In the center lane would fly 
419 planes with gliders for the 82d Division, 82 
towing gliders to the 101st Division, and a para- 
chute resupply mission of 191 planes for the 101st 
Divison. The glider and resupply serials for the 
101st Division were sandwiched in between the 
first four and the last four serials going to the 8 2d, 
probably to give the latter division time to clear 
its landing zone before the second batch of gliders 

*It was heartened by remarkably accurate artillery support 
from the guns of the 64th Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery. 
This unit 10 miles away in a suburb of Nijmegen had estab- 
lished radio contact with an artillery control set of 1 Airborne 
and used it not only to lay down a screen of protecting fire 
but also to provide a much-needed link between Browning and 
the commander of First Airborne Division. 

arrived. At first the lead plane was scheduled to 
arrive at LZ O at 1515, but the time was later 
changed to 1615. All missions, both British and 
American, were to fly the southern route and use 
Eindhoven as their IP. 

Protection of the first three waves of British 
resupply planes was to be handled by six Spitfire 
squadrons of ADGB. One P-51 group from Eighth 
Air Force would provide area cover. The last 
wave of British aircraft and the long American 
column were to be guarded from the Belgian coast 
to Eindhoven by 15 squadrons of fighters from 
ADGB; between Eindhoven and their destinations 
protection would be by 15 fighter groups of Eighth 
Air Force. 

The weather was almost identical with that on 
the preceding day. Thick fog was general over 
England during the morning but had lifted in the 
south before the first resupply wave began taking 
off at 1100 hours. However, low stratus persisted 
between 600 and 1,200 feet, and haze restricted 
visibility to as little as a mile in some areas. Con- 
ditions were much better outside England, and 
over Holland there was only % to % cloud at 
about 3,000 feet. 

All of the 64 Stirlings dispatched by 38 Group 
in the first three RAF resupply waves reached 
Holland, and 61 are believed to have accomplished 
their mission. However, the weather kept all but 
19 of their Spitfire escorts from leaving England, 
and they did not catch up with the misison until 
after it had reached the Arnhem area. Although 
the 56th Fighter Group of Eighth Air Force sent 
34 P-47's as area cover, they also arrived late. 

This inadequate fighter protection gave the Luf- 
waffe its first good chance to attack an Allied 
airborne mission, and it made the most of the 
occasion. Thirteen Stirlings failed to return, and 
most of them had fallen prey to the Nazi fighters. 
One squadron of Focke-Wulf's swooping down 
out of the clouds shot down 7 out of a sequence 
of 10 Stirlings within a few moments. The Spit- 
fires do not appear to have engaged the enemy. 
Some of their pilots sighted German planes but 
mistook them for P-51's on area cover until it 
was too late to catch them. Near Lochem about 
1505 the 56th Group did intercept 22 or more 
German fighters (mostly Focke-Wulf's with square 
wingtips somewhat resembling P-51's) on their 
way back to Germany from the Arnhem area. The 
group claimed to have destroyed 15 of them at a 

138 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater Market— The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

cost of two missing and one salvaged. Thus, 
although the raiders had done their mischief, 
they paid high for the opportunity. 

Escort for the main troop carrier effort that day 
was also much curtailed because of weather. 
Five out of 15 British fighter squadrons failed to 
leave England because of the overcast and the 118 
ADGB fighters which did make sorties sighted 
only a few German planes, which made off as fast 
as they could. As for Eighth Air Force, it can- 
celled the missions of 13 of its 15 supporting 
groups, leaving one group of P-47's and one of 
P-51's to perform area patrol.* The P-51's ran 
into low clouds over their base during assembly 
and were recalled. This left only 36 planes of the 
353d Fighter Group under MEW guidance to 
protect the troop carriers beyond Eindhoven. 

The 353d patrolled the Eindhoven-Arnhem area 
faithfully from 1610 to 1650. At 1630 about 5 
miles southwest of Nijmegen it came upon approxi- 
mately 30 German fighters, some attacking C-47's 
while others acted as top cover. After a sharp 
clash in which the enemy displayed considerable 
skill the 353d Group drove them off. One P-47 
had been lost and six Nazi fighters were reported 
shot down. 

The 53 Dakotas of 46 Group which flew the 
last wave of the British resupply lift suffered 
almost as severely as the Stirlings preceding them. 
They lost 10 aircraft to flak and fighters. In all, 
out of 117 planes dispatched by 38 Group and 
46 Group on the 21st, 23 were missing and 38 
were damaged, a disturbingly high proportion. 61 

Once again 1 Airborne Division had a Eureka 
beacon functioning, at least some of the time, on 
the roof of its headquarters, but only a couple of 
navigators are known to have signalled it, and 
neither got responses. The lack of use may be 
attributed to the pilots' growing familiarity with 
the route and to the relatively good flying condi- 
tions over Holland. Again panels, Very lights, 
smoke, and an Aldis lamp were used to mark 
the drop point, and once again the Very lights were 
by far the most effective with 30 pilots sighting 
them as compared to 14 seeing panels, and one 
seeing smoke. 

Although 91 crews reported successful drops 
and some others probably reached the drop point, 

* Another group, the 359th, was to escort the Polish para- 
troop mission. It managed to get 20" picked pilots into the air, 
but conditions were so bad that they had to be recalled. (Hist 
359th Ftr Gp Sep 44) 

the intense fire of the German forces surrounding 
1 Airborne effectively disrupted the drop. Out of 
271 tons of supplies parachuted, only about 11 
tons or 4 percent was officially recovered. It is, 
however, likely that the starving and desperate 
troops picked up some food and ammunition 
which they did not declare or turn in. 82 

The boldest venture of the day was made by the 
5 2d Wing, flying the Polish paratroops. Layer 
upon layer of clouds from 150 feet above the 
ground to heights of 9,000 feet pressed down on its 
bases. Visibility in the Grantham area was close 
to zero. These conditions were outweighed by the 
desperate need of 1 Airborne Division for imme- 
diate assistance, which only the Poles could pro- 
vide. As one flier wrote, "The weather was 
•impossible. No one believed until actual take-off 
that the mission would actually run." 83 But run 
it did. 

The mission was arranged in serials of 27, 27, 
27 and 33 planes, the first two serials being flown 
from Spanhoe by the 315th Group and the other 
two from Saltby by the 314th Group. The lead 
serial of the 314th began taking off at 1310 with 
instructions to assemble at the 1,500-foot level, 
which was believed to be clear. The serial assem- 
bled successfully and started out, but soon found 
itself in a blind alley, completely blocked by cloud. 
The only thing to do was disperse and try to climb 
out of the overcast. In this attempt 25 pilots lost 
their bearings and returned to base. The other 
two after long circling above the clouds sighted a 
later serial and joined it. 

By 1405 when the next take-offs were made, 
tactics had been revised. The planes took off in 
single file, spiralled up to 10,000 feet, and assem- 
bled there on top of the clouds. This worked. 
Only 6 of the 87 aircraft in the last three serials 
became detached from their mates and had to 
return to base. However, at 1545 while crossing 
the Channel a flight leader in the 314th Group 
repeatedly received a message on the flight control 
frequency which he was unable to decode. Decid- 
ing it must be a recall, he brought his 10 planes 
back to Saltby. 

Over the first part of its route the mission re- 
mained close to 10,000 feet, but near the Belgian 
coast the clouds thinned and broke, enabling the 
formations to descend to the 1,500-foot level. One 
straggler, hit by flak near the mouth of the Scheldt, 
had to drop its troops near Ghent and limp home 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 139 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

on one engine. The rest swung up the west side 
of the salient to the drop zone, a large area of 
open, ditched land northeast of the town of Driel 
on the south side of the Rhine opposite Heveadorp. 
No pathfinders had been sent to mark the zone, 
but the leaders found their way to it by good 
visual navigation, checked occasionally by Gee, 
which was functioning well and without much 

The mission had neither anti-flak patrols nor 
fighter cover to protect it over Holland. The one 
fighter group on patrol beyond Eindhoven left 
the area just before the troop carriers arrived. 
Fortunately no hostile fighters spotted the serials, 
but there was some ground fire along the way and 
much light flak and small arms fire near the zone. 
Several planes were hit and at least one very hard 
hit during the approach, but all managed to make 
their drops. The three serials passed over the 
zone at 1708, 1712 and 1715 at altitudes between 
700 and 850 feet. The Poles, who were overloaded 
with equipment and were making their first drop 
into combat, were a little slow in getting out. This 
caused many of them to jump several hundred 
yards beyond the zone. It also prevented the 
troop carrier formations from turning homeward 
as soon as they had intended. As a result, several 
flights after turning south passed over Elst, a Nazi 
stronghold bristling with antiaircraft guns. So 
many were the guns and so incessant their firing 
that the little town reminded one flier of "a pinball 
machine gone mad." The formations exposed to 
this barrage disintegrated instantaneously. Most 
of the pilots dived onto the deck and flew across 
Holland at minimum altitude and maximum speed. 
Very few planes returned to base that night. How- 
ever, next day it was found that only five, all from 
the 315th Group, had been destroyed. The other 
missing aircraft had had to land in Belgium or 
southern England because of damage, darkness, 
and thickening fog. Some pilots landing at Brad- 
well had to have the aid of a fog dispersal unit. 
German fire had damaged 33 planes, 14 of them 
so severely that they had to be turned over to 
service groups for repair. Casualties were 1 1 men 
dead or missing and at least 10 wounded or 

The mission had set out with 1,51 1 Polish troops 
and around 100 tons of supplies and equipment. 
Of this load 998 troops and 69 tons of supplies 
were dropped in the vicinity of the prescribed 

zone. About 750 paratroops, three-quarters of 
those who had been dropped, were able to assem- 
ble that evening. Statistically speaking, then, the 
mission was only about 50 percent effective. In 
terms of difficulties and hazards overcome it was 
a brilliant performance. The Polish brigade com- 
mander wrote "I cannot praise too much the per- 
fect dropping, which in difficult weather conditions 
and in spite of strong enemy antiaircraft fire over 
the D.Z. was equal to the best dropping during 
any exercise this Bde. Gp. has ever had." 64 

If the British airborne had been able to hold 
their ground, the mission might have saved them, 
perhaps even enabled the Allies to retain a foot- 
hold across the Rhine. At 2100 that night Polish 
troops reached the bank of the river, only to find 
the ferry sunk and the opposite shore in enemy 
hands. The Germans had taken Heveadorp two 
hours before. At 2230 the brigade liaison officer, 
who had crossed the river further down with 
Dutch assistance, notified the Poles that 1 Air- 
borne was preparing to counterattack Heaveadorp 
and was collecting boats and rafts to bring them 
across. The attack came to nothing; the boats 
failed to appear; and the Polish brigade fell back 
on defensive positions at Driel. 65 

Needless to say, the appalling weather in the 
Grantham area made it impossible to dispatch the 
gliders marshalled for the 82d Division. Although 
conditions at the bases of the 53d Wing in southern 
England were better, they were bad enough to 
ground the gliders intended for the 101st Division 
also, particularly since the 101st was in no great 
need of reinforcement. The parachute resupply 
mission set up for the 101st was sent, but it was 
reduced to two small serials. Another serial with 
emergency supplies was arranged for the 8 2d 

The 438th and 437th Groups dispatched 15 
planes apiece carrying about 16 tons of rations to 
LZ W for the 101st. During the early part of then- 
flight they had to contend with haze, which limited 
visibility to as little as half a mile, and with % 
cloud between the altitudes of 500 and about 6,000 
feet. Three pilots straggled, lost their way, and 
returned because of the weather, and three others 
turned back because of mechanical difficulties. 
The remainder, 12 in each serial, flew unopposed 
over the southern route and dropped their loads 
over DZ W at 1631 and 1640. Although as a 
result of the weather the drop was not well con- 

140 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

centrated, it was fairly accurate, and about 31 
percent of the rations were recovered. All planes 
returned undamaged, having probably been over 
friendly territory all the way. 

Another 33 planes with about 15 tons of ra- 
tions were dispatched by the 438th Group to DZ 
O for the 8 2d Division. Two of them aborted on 
account of the weather. The rest reached the drop 
zone at 1700 after a difficult but uneventful trip 
and made a somewhat scattered drop from a height 
of 1,500 feet. 66 

D Plus 5 

On 22 September the weather was very bad and, 
after waiting until midday, Airborne Army can- 
celled all its missions.* Fog had been widespread 
over England and the Low Countries throughout 
the morning and was replaced in the afternoon by 
stratus with ceilings about 1,000 feet and in places 
as low as 300 feet. In the course of the afternoon 
rain spreading over England from the west lowered 
the ceiling to between 500 and 1,000 feet and 
reduced visibility to between 1,000 and 2,000 
yards. Although 38 Group stated in its report that 
resupply missions could have been flown, the 
advancing disturbance could have made the return 
to base very hazardous, and this risk may have 
been the decisive consideration. The Eighth Air 
Force did dispatch two groups of P-47's to patrol 
the Arnhem area. They flew 77 uneventful sorties 
and returned safely. 67 

The ground fighting on 22 September was made 
memorable by a German offensive which cut the 
Allied corridor near Veghel, and by the efforts of 
British infantry to break through to the Rhine. 
While British forces had moved up to buttress both 
flanks of the corridor as far as the Wilhelmina 
Canal, the road from there to Grave was defended 
only by the 101st Division and by the British 
convoys moving along the highway. Over most of 
that stretch no man's land began at the edge of 
the road; off it in fields and farmyards and on 
obscure back roads the enemy was concentrating 
his forces for a typical German pincer attack to 
snap the stem of the Allied salient. Veghel was 
the natural objective for such an attack, since 
destruction of the bridges there Would block traffic 

*There are some references to missions being flown on the 
22d, but the weight of the evidence is overwhelmingly against 

for days no matter how soon the Allies retook the 
town. Furthermore, Veghel was lightly held. Its 
garrison, the 501st Parachute Regiment had de- 
tached its 1st and 3d Battalions to carry on a 
little offensive of their own five miles away at 
Schijndel, leaving only Headquarters and the 2d 
Battalion to hold Veghel. The nearest source of 
reinforcements was the 502d PIR at St. Oeden- 
rode, and since it was needed to garrison that 
sector any substantial help would have to come 
from the Zon area seven or eight miles away. The 
Germans could fairly hope that by the time a 
relief column reached Veghel they would have 
the town. 

On the night of the 21st and early on the 22d 
General Taylor, sensing the threat to his northern 
flank, gave orders for the 327th Glider Infantry 
Regiment to move to Veghel, and for the 506th 
PIR, minus the 1st Battalion, to occupy Uden four 
miles north of Veghel. About 1000 the regimental 
headquarters of the 506th rolled through Veghel, 
followed a little later by 175 men of the 2d Bat- 
talion, and drove peacefully on to Uden. The rest 
of the 506th was still south of St. Oedenrode, and 
the 327th, which had not received its orders until 
0930, was just starting. Only its 3d Battalion was 
to go by truck. The others were to march up back 
roads, so as not to block traffic on the highway. 

About 1100 the Nazis attacked Veghel in 
strength from the east, using the 107th Panzer 
Brigade and the 280th Assault Gun Brigade. This 
formidable force very nearly overwhelmed the 
single battalion opposing it, but the arrival at 
1215 of part of the 2d Battalion of the 506th 
somewhat stabilized the situation. By frantic ef- 
forts the 3d Battalion of the 327th, the 3d Bat- 
talion of the 506th, and a battery of antitank guns 
were rushed in during the next couple of hours, 
and none too soon. At 1400 the Germans attacked 
again on the northeast, and at the same time the 
other arm of their pincer, several battalions of 
infantry supported by tanks and artillery, pressed 
from the west toward the canal bridges. Com- 
pany D of the 506th, which had just ridden into 
town, was hastily dispatched to stop them and 
managed to do so with the support of a British 
tank squadron. Considerable British armor and 
artillery enroute to Nijmegen had been held up in 
Veghel by the German offensive and played an 
important part that day in saving the town. 

Unable to break through into Veghel, the Ger- 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 141 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

mans used their superior numbers to work then- 
way around the defenders and cut the highway 
both north and south of the town. Then they re- 
newed their offensive, and very nearly reached 
one of the railroad bridges before being stopped. 
The pressure on the south was relieved about 1600 
by the arrival of the main body of the 327th Glider 
Infantry and the 321st Glider Field Artillery Bat- 
talion. They fought their way into the town and 
took over the defense of its southwest side. 
Further insurance was provided by the return of 
the 3d Battalion of the 501st, which had been 
recalled from Schijndel at noon and marched into 
Eerde about 1630 after making a wide circle to 
the south. The crisis was over, but for several 
hours the enemy had been dangerously close to 
success, and the 101st Division had had to con- 
centrate over half its strength to beat them off. 
Also the road was still blocked north of Veghel, 
and the detachment of the 506th in Uden was 
isolated under heavy pressure. 08 

While the tide of battle surged around Veghel 
the 82d Division had a comparatively quiet day. 
It pushed along the south side of the Waal to Pals, 
about three miles east of Nijmegen to provide a 
buffer of friendly territory around the bridge. The 
Germans offered stiff resistance to patrols of the 
508th PIR and made several attacks on a hill 
which it held south of Beek. Elsewhere the divi- 
sional perimeter was quiet. 69 

After tanks had failed to break through to the 
Rhine, the task of doing so had been turned over 
to the British infantry of 43 Division. This division 
was to send one brigade at dawn up the Arnhem 
highway through Elst and a second on a road 
further west through Oosterhout. The assault did 
not get started until 0830, and Elst, held by two 
SS battalions with about 20 tanks and numerous 
guns, seemed so formidable that the British de- 
cided to concentrate on the other route. That 
should have been easier, as Oosterhout was very 
weakly held, but 43 Division treated it as though 
it contained an army. The attack was made with 
such careful deliberation that not one of the divi- 
sion was killed, but it took all day to capture the 
village. Meanwhile 1 Airborne, which had radioed 
on the evening before that relief within 24 hours 
was vital, hung on as best it could. 

Finally the way was clear, and a supply column 
with several DUKW's set out northward at 1800. 
An hour later it reached the Polish positions at 

Driel. However, darkness had fallen, and no place 
could be found on the steep, muddy banks of the 
river from which to launch the DUKW's. All 
that could be done was to ferry about 50 Polish 
paratroops and small amounts of food and ammu- 
nition across the Rhine on improvised rafts. 70 

D Plus 6 

On 23 September the tense ground situation 
between Veghel and Grave resolved itself in the 
Allies favor. The German offensive against Veghel 
had lost its impetus and dwindled into two or three 
small thrusts which were easily parried. At 1500 
the 101st Division counterattacked, using the 
506th PIR. This regiment advanced northward, 
met only feeble resistance, and was halfway to 
Uden when about 1800, it made contact with 32 
Guards Brigade, which had slashed down the 
highway from Grave. It had found the paratroops 
in Uden still holding their own. As soon as the 
highway was open the trucks began to roll, but for 
more than 24 hours traffic had been at a standstill. 

The worst effect of the German roadblock was 
that it delayed the arrival of assault boats. The 
only ones available were a handful at Nijmegen 
which had come through the Waal crossing of the 
504th PIR in usable condition. Too few for an 
assault, they were used on the night of the 23d 
to ferry essential supplies and 250 Polish para- 
troops across the river. By that time the Germans 
had almost complete control of the north bank, 
and only about 150 of the Poles got through to 1 
Airborne. During the day sustained attacks by 
a brigade of 43 Division took most of Elst, but the 
Nazis still clung to enough of it to bar the highway. 
This was an inconvenience, since the Oosterhout 
road was a bad one. However, even had Elst been 
taken, the Rhine could not be crossed without 
boats. 71 

The renewed activity of the Allied air forces 
was a bright feature of D plus 6. Weather at last 
was favorable. In England the day was fair, the 
clouds high and broken, and only a few patches of 
light rain marred the prospect. Fog and overcast 
lingered over the Low Countries during the morn- 
ing but were swept away early in the afternoon 
by a cold front, which left behind it clearing skies 
and brisk westerly winds. 

Plans called for all missions to the airborne to 
fly the revised southern route, via Bourg Leopold 

142 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

and Eindhoven. The postponed glider missions to 
the American airborne were to fly the center lane 
to LZ's O and W with the lead glider reaching 
LZ O at 1400. Again the two glider serials for 
the 101st Division were to go from England to 
Eindhoven in the middle of the glider column 
slated for the 82d Division. One plane had been 
added, and 14 of the 442d Group withdrawn from 
the 8 2d Division's mission, giving it a total of 
406. The gliders going to the 101st had been in- 
creased from 82 to 84, and the 442d Group, 
formerly scheduled to tow a serial, had been re- 
placed by the 434th, which was more experienced 
in glider work. 

The Polish troops who had been returned to 
base on D plus 4 were to be dropped on DZ O at 
1447 by a 42-plane serial, flying the left lane. The 
ground situation no longer required a drop at 
Driel, and a drop at DZ O was safer for the troop 
carriers. A resupply drop to 1 Airborne would be 
made at 1400 by 123 aircraft of 38 and 46 
Groups, flying at 2,500 feet. After reconnaissance 
by weather planes on the morning of the 23 d, all 
arrival times were postponed two hours to give 
the weather on the continent more time to clear 
after the cold front passed. 

From England to Eindhoven and back the troop 
carrier columns were to be given cover by 14 
Spitfire squadrons of ADGB, and four more 
squadrons would fly area patrol between Bourg 
Leopold and Eindhoven. Between Eindhoven and 
Volkel (west of Uden) three Mustang squadrons 
of ADGB would be on area patrol. Eighth Air 
Force was to provide 13 groups and one squadron 
of fighters. Three P-51 Groups were to fly area 
patrol and escort between Bourg Leopold and 
Arnhem at heights of 2,500 to 5,000 feet. One 
group of P-51's and one of P-47's would fly high 
cover in those areas. A perimeter connecting 
Maastricht, Cleve, and Zwolle was to be guarded 
by 5 groups of P-51's and one of P-38's, under 
MEW direction. Two groups of P-47's and the 
rocket squadron were to neutralize flak between 
Nijmegen and Arnhem. All Eighth Air Force 
units were to be in position by 1530. 

The RAF fighters flew 193 sorties without meet- 
ing air opposition but lost one or two planes. The 
Eighth Air Force units made 580 sorties and suf- 
fered 16 losses, largely from ground fire. The 
pilots reported sighting at least 185 enemy fighters, 
generally in groups of about 35, and claimed to 

have shot down 27 at a cost of 6 of their own. Out 
on the perimeter in the Geldern-Wesel area the 
339th Fighter Group had three clashes with Nazi 
fighter formations and the pilots claimed to have 
destroyed six enemy planes while losing three. 
These interceptions occurred when the troop car- 
riers were over Holland and may have been im- 
portant in protecting them from Nazi forays. In 
another big battle the 353d Group, flying high 
cover southeast of Arnhem, met some 50 enemy 
fighters. Its pilots reported shooting down 19 
aircraft and losing three. This fight came at 1745, 
by which time the last troop carriers had passed 
Eindhoven on their way home. 

Anti-flak sorties were made by 88 aircraft, 
which fired 23 rockets, dropped 85 bombs, mainly 
260-pound fragmentation bombs, and did much 
strafing. Although still restricted by the rule that 
they should not attack until fired upon, the flak- 
busters had a good day. They reported 18 gun 
positions destroyed and 17 damaged. One of the 
planes was shot down and 22 damaged. The 78th 
Fighter Group, which neutralized many German 
positions in the drop area of the British resupply 
mission, probably saved that mission from dis- 
astrous losses. 72 

The great array of gliders which had stood 
marshalled on the airfields of the 50th and 52d 
Wings in the eastern midlands since 19 September 
finally began taking off at 1210 on the 23d. In 
the 406 Wacos were 3,385 troops, 104 jeeps, 59 
loaded trailers and 25 pieces of artillery.* The 
units involved were the 325th Glider Infantry, 
four batteries of the 80th Airborne Antiaircraft 
Battalion, two companies of engineers, the divi- 
sional reconnaissance platoon, and an MP 
platoon. 73 

As usual when large numbers of gliders were 
involved, assembly was a tedious business taking 
from 40 to 60 minutes. However, it was well 
handled, and only three gliders aborted, one break- 
ing loose over England and two turning back with 
mechanical difficulties. Inevitably there was a cer- 
tain amount of jostling and trouble with prop wash. 
The tugs and gliders in the rear were particularly 
affected. As formations tightened or loosened they 
had to vary their speed, from 110 to as much as 

*The figures used are those given by the airborne, but they 
correspond quite closely to the totals of 3,378 men, 100 jeeps, 
38 pieces of artillery and 253 tons of supplies and equipment 
(presumably including the artillery and jeeps) reported by the 
troop carriers. 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 143 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

160 miles an hour. To avoid prop wash rear 
elements flew above those preceding, and some 
got well over 2,000 feet up. It is not surprising 
that a few of them were jolted by wash from the 
RAF Stirlings at 2,500 feet. The intercom sets 
worked better than in the past, but over 20 per- 
cent of them failed or worked poorly. Although 
for most of the way visibility was over five miles 
and cloud bases over 2,500 feet, the column did 
pass through slight rain at some points. When all 
these difficulties have been noted, the fact remains 
that for most pilots the trip across the Channel 
and over Belgium went quite smoothly. Only one 
glider, which ditched successfully, went down in 
the Channel; and none did so in Belgium. 

The mission apparently turned north at Gheel 
rather than Bourg Leopold, flew outside of the 
Allied salient, and as a result was subjected to 
some small-arms fire in an area west of Eindhoven. 
Five gliders were released in that area, one because 
of flak damage, one because it was out of control, 
the others for unspecified reasons. Real trouble 
came when the column reached the Veghel area. 
The Germans, beaten back from the highway, were 
still massed in strength along its flanks. The 
earlier serials flew over them for a distance of 
about five miles, and while doing so received a 
barrage of accurate and intense light flak and 
automatic weapons fire. Nine planes were shot 
down on the mission and 96 were damaged, about 

20 percent of the damage being serious enough to 
require repair by service groups. Casualties aboard 
the planes were 13 dead or missing and about 17 
wounded or injured. Nearly all of this toll was 
inflicted in the general vicinity of Veghel and 

The first serial was especially hard hit, three of 
its planes going down and several gliders being 
shot loose or forced to release because of damage. 
The two lead gliders of the 29th Squadron had to 
cut loose, and this set off a succession of premature 
releases from its half of the formation. In some 
instances the tug flashed the green light; in some 
the glider pilot released of his own accord or at 
the request of the airborne. The upshot was that 

21 gliders in that serial came down prematurely 
between Veghel and Grave. None were demolished 
and only a couple made rough landings. Except 
for three or four which landed on an airstrip near 
Volkel, they were strung out close to the highway 
in friendly territory or so near it that with Dutch 

assistance and some rescue work by Allied troops 
it proved possible to bring in all occupants and 

A similar situation occurred in the fourth serial 
when a squadron leader, whose plane was about 
to crash, released his glider near Veghel. His men 
faithfully followed his example with the result that 
18 gliders in that formation came down within 
about six miles of Veghel. Six of these landed in 
hostile territory, and all aboard were lost. 

The last three serials while still over Belgium 
received radio reports from returning formations 
on the danger spots ahead and adjusted their 
course accordingly with such beneficial results 
that they had only one plane shot down and two 
gliders released in the Veghel sector. 

Some 348 gliders were brought as far as Grave. 
The Eureka on the zone was not functioning, prob- 
ably because the batteries were worn out, but none 
of the pilots appear to have had trouble finding 
their way there. In the northwest part of the LZ 
near Overasselt, the pathfinders had laid out panels 
and sent up smoke signals which were sighted by 
most of the formations. 

The first serial reached LZ O at 1603 and dur- 
ing the next seven minutes released its gliders 
there at altitudes of 900 to 2,500 feet. The second 
serial had already reached the zone and made its 
release between 1602 and 1607 from heights of 
600 to 1300 feet. This overlapping would prob- 
ably have caused confusion had not half the first 
serial released before reaching the zone and the 
remainder been much dispersed. Both timing and 
formation left something to be desired. Two more 
serials arrived out of sequence, and only the last 
two, which arrived at 1710 and 1717, were exactly 
on schedule. However, there seems to have been 
no serious interference between serials, and ap- 
proximately three-quarters of the gliders descended 
in formation after release somewhere between 800 
and 1,200 feet, and took a 90° or 180° turn to 
the left (depending on their angle of approach) so 
as to land into the wind. A minority of stragglers 
and non-conformists followed widely divergent 
patterns, making turns of 360° or more after high 
releases, turning right when the rest went left, or 
pulling away from their mates to avoid crowded 
fields. Nevertheless, the results compared very 
favorably with those in previous glider operations. 

The main focus of the landings was in an oval 
a mile across and Wi miles long lying northwest 

144 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

of Overasselt, and centered on the pathfinders. 
Within that area were some 210 gliders. A looser 
concentration of about 100 gliders gathered in an 
open area of similar size and shape along the 
riverbanfc opposite Grave. Of the rest, all but one 
were on or close to the zone and all but about six 
were within half a mile of one of the mian 

Although LZ O had the great advantage of 
being out of range of the enemy, landing on it was 
no easy matter. The zone had originally been re- 
garded as unsuitable for gliders because so much 
of it consisted of very small or narrow fields bor- 
dered by fences, hedges and drainage ditches. 
Large numbers of livestock grazing in the fields 
created an additional hazard. Most of the glider 
pilots came in at speeds of 55 to 75 miles per 
hour, frequently using arrestor chutes to great 
advantage. They had to do a great deal of dodg- 
ing and hedgehopping, but found that they could 
smash through the hedges and light fences almost 
unscathed. Only about eight of the gliders landing 
on the zone were destroyed, almost all by running 
into ditches. At least 102 received damage. Noses 
and wings were battered, wheels and undercar- 
riages smashed, but the contents of the gliders 
came through almost intact. Out of 24 guns, 82 
jeeps and 47 trailers put down on the LZ, only 
one jeep was unusable. Of over 2,900 troops 
landed there all but 10 were fit for duty. 

The last gliders carrying the 325th Glider Regi- 
ment had landed at 1703. By 1800 the Regiment 
was assembled at 75 percent of strength and was 
moved immediately to the Groesbeek area to take 
up positions on the east flank of the 82d Division. 
Most of the missing personnel reported in during 
the next two days. It was a most welcome rein- 
forcement, but the time when it could have any 
significant effect on the outcome of MARKET 
was already past. 74 

For much of the way the little 53d Wing glider 
mission to LZ W was flown in conjunction with 
that just described. Its 84 tug-glider combinations 
took off from the bases of the 436th and 438th 
Groups with 395 troops and 100 tons of supplies 
and equipment, including 15 guns, 13 trailers, and 
23 jeeps. Four gliders aborted over England, one 
because a nervous soldier pulled the release handle. 
The rest flew to Bradwell Bay and there fell into 
position between the 5th and 6th serials of the 
mission to the 82d Division. One more glider was 

released over Belgium. The other 79 went almost 
unopposed to LZ W and were released there from 
a height of about 600 feet at 1632 and 1636 with 
excellent results. On the zone, fit for action, 
landed 338 troops, 14 guns, 12 trailers and 22 
jeeps. Two gliders had crash-landed killing three 
soldiers and injuring nine. 75 

The repeat mission bringing in the Polish para- 
troops consisted of 41 planes of the 315th Group 
loaded with 560 troops and 28 tons of supplies 
and equipment. It arrived over LZ O at 1643 
without loss, damage, or casualties after a milk 
run which stands in singular contrast to the experi- 
ence of the glider serials which had flown to that 
zone just ahead of it. Whether this was because 
it flew the left hand lane \Vz miles west of the 
gliders or for some other reason is nowhere 

A green light, flashed too early, made 10 troops 
jump about five miles short of the zone, and two 
others were brought back. The remaining troops 
and all but 12 out of 219 parapacks dropped on 
or close to the zone. Most were well concentrated 
near the pathfinders northwest of Overasselt. 
About 18 pilots, impressed by the concentration 
of gliders, troops, and vehicles near the riverbank 
opposite Grave, dropped their loads there. The 
troops were quickly assembled, but spent the night 
in the Groesbeek area as reserves for the 82d 
Division. 70 

The 73 Stirlings and 50 Dakotas dispatched by 
the RAF to bring supplies to 1 Airborne had a 
most difficult mission. The area still held by 
British troops had shrunk to 1 ,000 yards in di- 
ameter and was ringed with enemy guns. Two 
planes aborted. Six were shot down, all apparently 
in or near the drop area, and 63 were damaged. 
Had not the 78th Fighter Group been on hand to 
keep down the fire the toll would have been much 

The drop point was even harder to locate than 
before. The Eureka was not working because 
the batteries were dead, and the Germans had 
captured the pathfinders' reserve stock. Parties 
attempting to use visual signals were harrassed 
by snipers, by mortars, and twice by strafing. 
Moreover; the Germans seem to have used bogus 
signals to mislead the pilots. Very lights were 
seen by 22 crews and other signals by 13, but only 
a handful dropped their loads within the British 
lines. Even well-placed bundles were hard to 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 145 

retrieve, since much of the terrain still held by 
the British was under observed fire, and hardly 
any vehicles were left for supply details to use. 
No doubt some were recovered by individuals and 
small units and used on the spot without any 
accounting. Even if we assume arbitrarily that 
four times as much was picked up as was ever 
reported, the amount reaching the troops was still 
less than 1 percent of what was sent. There was 
no alternative. Landing gliders in such a situation 
was out of the question. 77 

D Plus 7 

Bad weather on 24 September once again halted 
all troop carrier missions from England. In the 
morning, rain lashed England and the Continent, 
overcast hung unbroken at 300 to 800 feet, and 
winds of 25 to 30 miles per hour swept across 
the airfields. Conditions improved somewhat over 
southern England in the afternoon, but not enough 
to warrant a mission. 

However, as a result of the losses suffered on 
D plus 4, the commander of 46 Group had moved 
one of his squadrons to Brussels on the 23d, so 
that it could be escorted throughout its missions 
by fighters of 83 Group. This squadron dispatched 
21 Dakotas escorted by 36 Spitfires on a supply 
mission to the Hartestein pocket. The weather 
was so unfavorable that only four got there and 
only two of them dropped more or less at random 
without sighting any signals. They must have 
been over enemy territory for 1 Airborne was un- 
aware that any drop had been made. The other 
17 planes gave up at Nijmegen, 15 of them drop- 
ping their supplies to the 82d Division, and 2 air- 
landing them at a newly discovered airstrip near 
Grave. All returned safely, but four had been 
damaged by flak. 7 * 

About 0900 on the 24th the Nazis attacked at 
Eerde in a new attempt to cut the highway. The 
attack was repelled, although it took all three bat- 
talions of the 501st P1R to handle it. The front 
appeared to have been stabilized, and truck con- 
voys were pouring up the highway. Encouraged 
by this turn of events, Dempsey and Horrocks, 
meeting early in the afternoon at St. Oedenrode, 
decided to make one more bid for victory. That 
night the balance of the Polish Brigade and two 
companies of 43 Division would cross the Rhine 
in assault boats to buttress the lines of 1 Airborne. 

On the next night there would be a crossing in 
strength to make the foothold secure. There was 
no expectation of taking the Arnhem bridge, which 
by that time was strongly held. 

Hardly had the plan been made when it was 
upset. At 0430 the Germans slashed across the 
highway three miles south of Veghel. They brought 
up guns and tanks, and dug in for a long stay. It 
took 40 hours to pry them off the road, and during 
that time MARKET strangled to death. The 
northward movement of all supplies and reinforce- 
ments was halted, but by far the most serious effect 
was the delay in the arrival of assault boats, with- 
out which even a medium-sized landing was 

On the night of the 24th all 43 Division had 
for its crossing were four boats already on hand 
and five which got through before the road was 
cut and reached the river shortly before midnight. 
With these about 250 men of the 4th Dorset Regi- 
ment made a brave attempt to reach 1 Airborne. 
The boats scattered in the darkness; most of them 
landed at points held by the Germans; and almost 
all the little force was mopped up before it could 
organize. 7 " 

D Plus 8 

The operations of the troop carrier units on 25 
September were restricted, mainly it seems because 
of unfavorable weather. Ceilings over the Channel 
and the Low Countries were between 1,000 and 
1 ,500 feet and, although England had satisfactory 
weather in the morning, rain and low clouds with 
bases between 600 and 1 ,000 feet spread over the 
island from the west during the afternoon. 

One composite resupply serial of 34 aircraft of 
the 434th, 435th and 436th Groups was loaded at 
Ramsbury with 49 tons of howitzer ammunition 
for the 101st Division. It flew unopposed over 
the southern route to Hechtel and from there up 
the highway to DZ W, the only damage being 
caused by a rough landing on the return. The 
formation shifted at the IP from the V of V's to 
a column of three-plane V's, and at 1641 made a 
very good drop. Each plane had carried 6 para- 
packs and three door bundles. Practically all of 
the former landed in a small area and were re- 
covered. None of the latter were found, probably 
because it took too long to shove them out. 80 

The squadron of 46 Group based at Brussels 

146 — Airborne Operations in World War If, European Theater 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

sent seven Dakotas with medical supplies and food 
over the southern route to a drop point at 
Heveadorp. One was shot down and three dam- 
aged by flak. At least six planes dropped their 
loads, and four did so within sight of 1 Airborne, 
but the troops were so pinned down that they could 
not recover a single bundle. 

The resupply missions were protected by 60 
Spitfires and 36 Mustangs of ADGB. These en- 
countered about 50 enemy fighters near Arnhem 
and about 40 near Hengelo and claimed four de- 
stroyed at a cost of two Mustangs. Antiaircraft 
fire against the British missions was probably re- 
duced by 7 Typhoons, 54 Mitchells, and 24 Bos- 
tons of 2 TAF which were operating against 
enemy guns in the Arnhem area, primarily to 
ease the pressure on the airborne. sl 

The blocked highway, the lack of assault boats, 
and reports that the Germans were moving up 
panzer units to cut off 1 Airborne from the Rhine 
forced the Allied generals to give up hope of 
holding a bridgehead at Arnhem. On the morning 
of the 25th Montgomery ordered that his airborne 
troops be withdrawn south of the river, and at 
0605 a messenger informed Urquhart of the deci- 
sion. The latter replied that the move would have 
to be made that night. His men could endure no 

Indeed they could not. During the day the 
Germans infiltrated the Hartestein perimeter in 
many places, and in one instance so strongly that 
the airborne had to call down artillery fire from 
Nijmegen on the center of their own positions. 
The beleaguered force survived only because the 
enemy, confident of victory and awed by the 
ferocity of the airborne troops, hesitated to close 
with them. Instead the Nazis wasted time calling 
on a loud speaker for them to surrender. 

The weather, which had played so important 
a part in the defeat of the British airborne, saved 
them in the end from annihilation. On the night 
of the 25th in rain and howling wind the division 
stealthily made its way to the river, leaving its 
wounded to man the defenses. The Germans, 
apparently unaware of what was going on, made 
no effort to intervene. Before morning 1,741 men 
of 1 Airborne, 422 glider pilots, 160 Polish troops 
and 75 of the Dorsets had swum or been ferried 
across the Rhine. About 110 hid or escaped and 
crossed the river later, thanks to heroic efforts by 
the Dutch. The rest had to be written off as lost. 

An estimated 1,130 British and Polish troops 
perished in the battle of Arnhem and some 6,200 
were taken prisoner. Through 25 September the 
101st Division had 315 dead, 547 missing and 
1,248 wounded; the 82d Division had 215 dead, 
427 missing and 790 wounded in that period. 8 - 

Thus ended in failure the greatest airborne ven- 
ture of the war. Although General Montgomery 
asserted that it had been 90 percent successful, 
his statement was merely a consoling figure of 
speech. All objectives save Arnhem had been 
won, but without Arnhem the rest were as nothing. 
In return for so much courage and sacrifice, the 
Allies had won a 50-mile salient — leading 

D Plus 9 and After 

Allied ground operations after the evacuation 
of 1 Airborne may be disregarded, since the main 
objective of MARKET-GARDEN had been 
abandoned, and the American airborne were fight- 
ing as ground troops under Second Army control. 
It should be noted, however, that the fate of the 
salient they had created was still in doubt. The 
Germans subsequently made strenuous efforts to 
cut it by seizing or destroying the Nijmegen 
bridges. Savage attacks on a divisional scale were 
made out of the Reichswald Forest against the 
82d Division on 28, 29, and 30 September and 
southward from Arnhem on 1 October. Mean- 
while the Luftwaffe made repeated attempts to 
bomb the bridges. These failed, but on the night 
of 28 September swimmers with demolition charges 
did manage to destroy the railway bridge and put 
the highway bridge out of commission for 24 
hours. Coming when it did this had little effect, 
but it serves as a reminder that the Allies had on 
the whole been lucky in securing bridges. If the 
Grave or Nijmegen bridges had been destroyed 
early in the operation, MARKET would have 
fared much worse than it did. 

It was by no means certain on the morning of 
the 26th that another troop carrier effort might 
not yet be called for. The project in view was an 
airlanding of 52 Division near Grave. During the 
first six days of MARKET, plans to fly in that 
unit had been in abeyance for lack of a suitable 
field. On the 20th the divisional commander had 
proposed to Browning that one of his brigades be 
brought in by glider. Browning graciously de- 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 147 

clined the offer, partly because of ignorance as to 
the plight of 1 Airborne Division, but also no 
doubt because such an operation would have been 
risky and difficult to improvise. The tragedy was 
that a field existed on which infantry could have 
been landed with ease and safety, but in spite of 
extensive aerial reconnaissance nobody in author- 
ity knew of it. 

Not until 21 September* did Airborne Corps 
discover a good grass fighter strip at Oud Keent 
only 2V4 miles west of Grave. Permission to use 
the strip was requested that night through Second 
Army but was not granted until the morning of 
the 23d. Browning's headquarters then called on 
FAAA for a mission to fly in an airfield control 
unit, the British air supply organization known as 
AFDAG (Airborne Forward Delivery Airfield 
Group) and an antiaircraft battery as soon as 
possible, obviously in preparation for bigger land- 
ings to follow. Meanwhile fences and other ob- 
stacles had been removed and a strip 100 yards 
wide and 1 ,400 yards long had been marked out. 

Bad weather made it impossible to send the 
mission on the 24th and unsafe to do so on the 
25th, but on the latter day a pathfinder team, 
equipped to operate a rudimentary control tower 
was flown in to the airstrip, and plans were laid 
to deliver the requested units and the 878th Engi- 
neer Battalion at noon on the 26th. 

The heavy equipment of the engineers and the 
Bofors guns of the artillerymen were to go in 
12 Horsas and 10 Hamilcars, towed by Stirlings 
of 38 Group. Most of the engineers and the con- 
trol unit would be flown from Boreham and Chip- 
ping Ongar by four glider serials of the 61st and 
437th Groups towing a total of 157 Wacos. The 
gliders would land in fields east of the airstrip. 
The antiaircraft battery and AFDAG were to be 
landed on the Grave strip by one 30-plane serial, 
followed by five 36-plane serials, all contributed 
by units of the 52d Wing. 

Weather over England was passable all day, but 
in the morning predictions of rain and low ceil- 
ings over Holland led Brereton to order about 
0800 that the operation be postponed 24 hours. 
By mid-morning prospects of improvement led 
him to decide that the airlanding serials could go 

*Air Commodore Darvall stated that he and the Corps Engi- 
neer "found" the strip on the 23d, but it is probable that they 
were sent to examine its usefulness after others had found it. 
Darvall, being on a hasty visit to the Nijmegen area, could 
easily have been unaware of a previous reconnaissance. 

in that day, two hours later than previously plan- 
ned. The gliders would have to wait/ 8 

At 1 1 1 5 the first plane was in the air, but the 
last did not set out until after 1400. It was neces- 
sary to have an average interval of at least half 
an hour between serials, because the dispersal 
area at the strip would hold only 70 aircraft, and 
once that number was down no more could be 
accommodated until some had unloaded and 

The trip along the southern route to Hechtel and 
up the highway was an easy one through clear air 
with broken clouds well overhead. There was 
occasional slight ground fire when planes flew too 
near the edge of the salient, but only one plane 
was damaged. 

Close cover from England to the landing strip 
and back was furnished by 20 Spitfire squadrons 
and three Mustang squadrons of ADGB, which 
flew a total of 271 sorties without seeing action. 
The Eighth Air Force sent eight fighter groups, 
one at the head of the troop carrier column, 3 in 
relays over the landing area, 2 on area patrol in 
the Arnhem area, one on area patrol around Nij- 
megen, and one to the east to watch a perimeter 
from Maastricht through Venlo to Arnhem. Most 
of their 326 sorties were uneventful, but at 1600 
when the Grave strip was already crammed with 
troop carrier craft and more serials were approach- 
ing it, the 479th Fighter Group flying area patrol 
near Haltern, about 50 miles east of Nijmegen, 
intercepted over 40 German fighters. The pilots 
claimed to have destroyed 28 enemy planes while 
losing only one, and that probably to flak. An- 
other group, vectored to the scene before the fight 
ended, claimed to have shot down four more. 
No raiders got through to strike at the troop 

Of 209 aircraft taking off on the mission to 
Grave, all reached the zone and landed on it 
safely between 1350 and 1740. The improvised 
control tower worked well, and teams of British 
and American glider pilots did yeoman service in 
the unloading of the 882 troops and 379 tons of 
cargo aboard the planes.* This was the closest the 
Allies came in World War II to airlanding in an 
airhead. The operation was successful, but it 
should be noted that the approach was over 

*Figures for individual serials as given in the report of the 
52d Wing give a total of 873 troops and 410 tons^ of supplies. 
That report and IX TCC statistics state that the supplies in- 
cluded 134 jeeps, 73 trailers, and 31 motorcycles. 

148 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

friendly territory and that the nearest enemy troops 
were several miles away. 

Airborne Army's plans for use of the Grave 
strip were crushed on the 27th. At 0450 in the 
morning Second Army informed them that Luft- 
waffe strength in the area had been built up to 
such a point that no more troop carrier missions 
to the strip could be allowed, and that evening, 
orders came that the field was to be taken over by 
83 Group as an advance fighter base. The group 
moved in next day. These actions were taken 
without consulting Airborne Corps or determining 
whether an additional strip might not be laid out, 
as in fact it quite easily could have been. 84 If fear 
of the Luftwaffe dictated the closing of Grave to 
IX TCC, the Luftwaffe was being much overrated. 
From the logistical point of view it was absurd to 
have supplies flown in to Brussels, reloaded onto 
trucks and carried at a snail's pace over 100 miles 
of congested roads to Nijmegen when they could 
just as well have been landed directly at Grave. 

The effect was that the glider mission set up to 
carry the 878th Engineers was cancelled, the fly-in 
of 52 Division was never made, and AFDAG was 
dispersed to do odd jobs for Second Army. In- 
stead of having up to 800 tons of supplies a day 
airlanded at Grave the troops in the salient were 
short of supplies for many weeks. Instead of being 
relieved, as they might have been, by 52 Division 
and prepared for future missions, the 82d and 
101st Divisions were held in the line until late 
November on the pretext that they could not be 
spared. As for IX TCC, it was removed from 
airborne missions and training and turned for the 
time being into an aerial trucking service for the 
ground forces. As an ironic anticlimax it was 
allowed to send two insignificant supply missions 
to Grave on the 29th and 30th. In the first, five 
planes landed with 20 troops and 16 tons of sup- 
plies. In the second, three soldiers and 56 tons 
of supplies were airlanded from 22 planes. 

Under pressure from General Arnold, who had 
been much dissatisfied with glider recovery from 
Normandy, Brereton made a strenuous effort to 
retrieve as many as possible of the gliders used 
in MARKET. He secured the services of Com- 
pany A of the 876th Aviation Engineer Battalion 
to construct temporary strips near Zon (on LZ 
W) and near Grave from which gliders could be 
towed after being made flyable. Those flyable 
gliders were to be taken to Denain/Prouvy near 

Valenciennes on the northern border of France for 
final repairs which would restore them to opera- 
tional status. After that they were to be redis- 
tributed to the troop carrier units. 

Between 25 September and 1 October three 
repair teams of about 150 men apiece were flown 
to the Continent to repair the gliders at Zon. On 
20 October one of these teams and two others 
arrived at Grave to begin repairing the gliders in 
that area. That same day the 61st Group began 
flying repaired gliders from Zon to Denain/ 
Prouvy where another team, which had moved 
there on the 19th, set to work to make the patched- 
up Wacos operational. 

Logistical support of the repair teams, especially 
those at Zon and Grave, involved great difficulties. 
Practically all supplies and equipment for the re- 
pairmen had to be flown from England. At first 
cargoes had to be landed at Brussels and delivered 
by truck over roads heavily congested with traffic 
for the front. Later landings were made at Eind- 
hoven. By 8 October 202 flights had already been 
made to the Continent on behalf of the troop car- 
rier repair effort, and hundreds more flights were 
made after that.* 

Also, the task of glider repair was greatly im- 
peded by enemy action, vandalism and bad 
weather. The British gliders beyond the Rhine 
were of course in German hands. The landing 
zones of the 8 2d and 101st Division were for sev- 
eral weeks within two or three miles of the front. 
During these early operations the glider mechanics 
came under small arms fire and even took some 
prisoners. The Grave area was still under artillery 
fire in December. 

While the battle was raging around the drop 
zones the gliders could not be protected and until 
late October the gliders around Grave had to be 
guarded by Dutchmen, whose orders were cheer- 
fully ignored by the Allied soldiery. Consequently, 
by the time repair work began everything remov- 
able had been taken from the gliders, and even 
their fabric had been ripped off in great chunks 
for foxhole covers. 

The autumn rains turned the flat, boggy fields 
of the Netherlands into quagmires. At Zon steel 
matting had to be placed under the gliders to keep 
them from sinking into the mud, and planes as- 
signed to tow out the Wacos stuck fast and had 

*Part of this traffic was in support of men repairing damaged 
C-47's in and around Brussels. 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 149 

to be hauled out by a crane. By mid-November 
the Zon strip was almost entirely under water and 
had to be closed. Thereafter all gliders from Zon 
had to be picked up by aircraft in flight. A par- 
ticularly severe setback to the program was an 
October gale which wrecked 1 15 gliders that had 
been more or less completely repaired. 

Because of these difficulties in the forward 
areas orders were issued in November for the 
removal of all flyable gliders from Zon, Grave 
and Denain/Prouvy to troop carrier bases near 
Chartres, and on the 22d of the month 111 re- 
paired gliders were flown to those fields. On 28 
December, most of the work being completed, the 
glider repair teams were removed, leaving only 
small clean-up detachments. The final total of 
gliders recovered was 281. Rickety and badly 
weathered, they were regarded with suspicion by 
the troop carrier units and were not much used. 
Although 90 fuselages and 373 tons of metal were 
also salvaged, these results hardly justify the use 
of 900 skilled men for three months, nor the 
effort needed to support them in a remote and 
exposed position. sr ' 


An appraisal of MARKET-GARDEN may well 
start with the question of why it did not succeed. 
Considering the complexity of the operation there 
is a remarkably high measure of agreement oh 
this matter. __>_ 

First and foremost comes the extraordinary 
revival of German fighting capacity brought about 
by General Model. Intelligence reports of over-all 
enemy strength were quite accurate, but as late as 
14 September a Second Army estimate described 
the Nazis as weak, demoralized, and likely to 
collapse entirely if confronted with a large airborne 
attack. Had that been so, MARKET would have 
been a sure thing. No amount of bad luck could 
have done more than delay its success. 

One step in the German reorganization was the 
movement of two panzer divisions into the Arn- 
hem area. This movement, and the failure of 
Second Army Intelligence to assess information on 
it correctly was the second factor making for 
failure. If, as supposed, the Germans had had 
no more than a brigade group at Arnhem, the 
British airborne could have taken city and bridge 
and held them until relieved. Had the concentra- 

tion of guns and armor there been recognized, 
the plans would doubtless have been changed. 

A third factor, which enabled the Germans to 
bring their strength to bear, was General Urqu- 
hart's error in locating his zones between five and 
eight miles from the objective. This was contrary 
to all airborne doctrine and he later admitted that 
it had been an unnecessary and fatal error. It 
cost the division the advantage of surprise and 
compelled it to divide its forces in the face of the 
enemy in order to keep possession of the landing 
zones for later missions. The consequence was 
the frittering away of six battalions in futile at- 
tempts to reach and hold the bridge. To be fair, 
one must remember that flak estimates for the 
vicinity of Arnhem were very pessimistic and that 
the polder land near the bridge was considered 
dangerously swampy. Still, the Polish paratroops 
were scheduled to jump into the polders south of 
the bridge on D plus 2 and might just as well have 
done so on D-day. Considering what Frost's 
troops achieved, it seems that they and the Poles 
combined might have held the bridge until help 
came, especially if a few pieces of artillery had 
been dropped or landed with them. 

Next in order, and first in General Montgom- 
ery's estimation, was the effect of bad weather in 
delaying the arrival of the Poles from D plus 2 to 
D plus 4 and that of the 325th Glider Regiment 
from D plus 2 to D plus 6. He believed that if 
the two units had arrived on schedule, the Poles 
could, have broken through to Frost's positions 
and the 325th might have provided the extra in- 
fantry needed to win the Nijmegen bridge and 
fight through to Arnhem, presumably before 
nightfall on the 20th. Such an achievement by 
those two units could perhaps have made the 
difference between defeat and victory. 

From one point of view the real culprit in this 
matter was not the weather, but the plan of opera- 
tion which, by distributing the delivery of the 
troops over a period of three days, not only put 
MARKET at the mercy of the weather but also 
forced the airborne to waste much of their strength 
in guarding drop or landing zones for the later 
missions. All concerned would have much pre- 
ferred to complete the lift in one or two days, but 
that was easier said than done. 

The troop carriers could not have speeded up 
the operation by using more or larger planes, 
since they had put into MARKET almost every 

150 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

plane and crew they had. The C-46 was not yet 
available to IX TCC and the C-47 units of the 
302d Transport Wing were neither trained nor 
available for airborne missions. One remedy for 
this limited capacity would have been to fly 
two sets of missions in one day as had been 
done in southern France over a course com- 
parable to that flown in MARKET. However, 
even in retrospect IX TCC held that this expedi- 
ent would have done more harm than good, since 
the September days were too short for adequate 
rest and servicing between the missions.* The 
American glider missions could have been com- 
pleted on D plus 1 by using Horsa gliders or by 
flying Wacos in double tow, but the Americans 
had acquired an aversion to the Horsa, and double- 
tow, though used later in VARSITY, was a peril- 
ous novelty in 1944. The time which might have 
been spent in practicing it had been eaten up by 
bad weather and the air supply effort. Double-tow 
from England would also have involved a fuel 
problem, but this could have been met by the use 
of extra tanks or by allowing the units involved 
to land at bases in Belgium. 

A partial solution would have been possible if 
the three groups which were moving to bases near 
Reims when preparations for MARKET began 
had been retained there. Flying from northern 
France they could easily have accomplished two 
missions in a day and would have been much less 
handicapped by bad weather than they were in 
the Grantham area. However, to do this large 
amounts of troop carrier materiel and all the air- 
borne troops with their supplies and equipment 
would have had to be flown in from England. It 
is hardly conceivable that this movement could 
have been made in time if MARKET had begun 
on the 14th or 15th as originally contemplated. 
It might possibly have been done before the 17th, 
but IX TCC would have had to divert to the 
staging operation hundreds of planes which were 
bringing supplies to Brussels for Montgomery. 
Furthermore, bad weather could have disrupted 
MARKET as badly by interrupting the staging 
process as it did by grounding missions. Although 
it can be argued that some troop carrier and air- 
borne units should have been already deployed in 
northern France, the logistical situation there 

•It will be recalled that the troop carrier groups of IX TCC 
had received almost double the standard number of aircraft 
without any compensating increase in ground personnel. 

would probably have made such a move an ex- 
cessive strain on available resources. Under the 
circumstances, the decision to fly all missions from 
England must be regarded as logical. 

The final straw which tipped the scales against 
MARKET was the slowness of the British ground 
troops. The delay of the Guards Armored Divi- 
sion in reaching Eindhoven made little difference, 
since if it had gone faster it would have had to 
wait longer before crossing the bridges at Zon 
and Nijmegen. What did hurt was the failure of 
43 Division to move up fast enough to give infan- 
try support to the Guards at Ressen on the 21st 
and its lack of aggressiveness on the 22d. To this 
may be added the failure of British units in VIII 
and XII Corps to advance up the flanks of the 
salient in time to prevent the Germans from cut- 
ting the highway as they did briefly at Zon and 
more seriously on the 22d and 24th near Veghel. 
The two corps averaged only three miles a day 
against feeble resistance. Unquestionably they 
were impeded by difficult terrain and by lack of 
transportation and supplies, but even British ob- 
servers felt that they might have done better had 
they felt a greater sense of urgency. Better foot- 
work by Second Army might possibly have saved 
the Arnhem bridge, or, more probably, have 
brought help to 1 Airborne soon enough to pre- 
serve a foothold across the Rhine. 8 " 

Weaknesses in communications, air support, re- 
supply and the combat qualifications of American 
glider pilots have also been regarded as contribut- 
ing to defeat in MARKET. While the signal 
organization of Airborne Corps was new and not 
wholly adequate, its radio communication was 
generally satisfactory except in the case of 1 
Airborne Division, which from D-day to D plus 5 
had very little contact with the outside world. 
Interference by a powerful British station drowned 
it out on one frequency. To prevent compromise 
the division had been given no data on ground 
force frequencies or procedure so it could not send 
messages through Second Army. Its long-range 
radios would sometimes reach England, but would 
not pick up Airborne Corps. Its short-range sets 
were too weak to begin with and after the move to 
Hartestein were muffled by the woods in that area. 
Some sets failed altogether, and others were 
knocked out by enemy action. The effect of all 
this was to keep Browning in comparative igno- 
rance of the plight of the division until it was too 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 151 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

late to do much about it. Had he known, he might 
have called in 52 Division or ordered 1 Airborne 
to move to Renkum, where it could have held 
out with comparative ease. 

Another weakness in communications was the 
lack of ground-air radio contact with incoming 
troop carrier missions at the drop and landing 
zones. The greatest value of such a system would 
have been in steering missions away from danger 
points like Best and providing information on 
changes of zone like that which caused the British 
resupply mission on D plus 2 to miscarry so badly, 
but it would also have provided traffic control and 
warnings on sudden changes in the weather. Be- 
fore the year was out those directing the destinies 
of Airborne Army had agreed that in future opera- 
tions troop carrier representatives would be 
brought in with the airborne to provide ground- 
air communication with command ships in subse- 
quent missions. 87 

Air support for the airborne troops after they 
landed was the responsibility of the Second Tacti- 
cal Air Force, RAF. In contrast to the massive 
support given to the troop carrier operations, this 
was small in scale and ineffective, the reasons be- 
ing bad weather, faulty support arrangements, and 
lack of planned interdiction. 

Apparently no plans were made for interdiction 
of German troop and supply movements, and 
none was attempted, although a good deal of 
impromptu harassing was done.* Both Allied and 
German experts felt that interdiction would have 
been worth while, and one look at the map of 
Holland is sufficient to show why they thought so. 
Marshy soil and a multitude of waterways created 
bottlenecks for German armor and vehicles just as 
they did for those of the Allies. Surely the im- 
portance of MARKET warranted the stoppering 
of certain of those bottlenecks, even at some in- 
convenience to future ground operations. As it 
was, the Germans were able to move troops to the 
MARKET area much faster than they got them 
to Normandy at the time of the Allied landings. 
Two divisions moved from the Dutch coast 98 
miles away and reached the battlefield on D plus 
5. ss 

Two air support parties with SCR-193 were 

*Fighter and fighter bomber units of the Eighth Air Force, 
dispatched to protect the troop carrier missions from flak and 
enemy aircraft, claimed to have destroyed 3 tanks, 35 trucks, 
127 motor vehicles, 10 locomotives and 118 railroad cars be- 
tween 17 and 26 September. (8th AF, Special Rpt on MAR- 
KET, p. 42). 

allotted to each of the airborne divisions and to 
Browning's headquarters. They were to send their 
requests to Second Army, which would turn them 
over to Second TAF's control center for considera- 
tion and forwarding to 83 Group. The support 
parties had SCR-522 sets for direct ground-air 
communication by VHF radio. In addition, two 
light warning radar sets and one GCI set were 
flown in. The GCI party landed in hostile terri- 
tory and had to destroy its set. The personnel 
with the light warning units landed with 1 Air- 
borne Division but were almost wiped out by 
German fire and were never able to operate their 

The air support parties were frustrated by two 
basic difficulties. Their SCR-193 sets would not 
reach Second Army, which was 50 to 85 miles 
away, and, try as they would, they could make no 
effective contact with support aircraft with their 
SCR-522 sets. On D plus 1 the 101st Division 
and Airborne Corps Headquarters made contact 
with a mobile listening set of XXX Corps and 
were able to relay requests to Second Army 
through that. Both SCR-193 sets with the 82d 
Division were inoperative because of landing dam- 
age, but Browning's Corps Headquarters, which 
was in the 82d's area, sent requests on its behalf, 
and on the night of the 18th loaned the division 
one of its sets. 

The great misfortune was that 1 Airborne was 
unable to put through any requests to anyone up 
to the time its only functioning VHF set was 
knocked out by a shell on D plus 2. Enemy fire 
had damaged the set very early and killed the 
only three well-trained operators. After making 
contact on 21 September with the short-range 
radio of 64 Regiment, the division sent some re- 
quests through that regiment to Airborne Corps 
to XXX Corps to 2 Army to Second TAF to 83 
Group to the supporting units, or in other words, 
all around Robin Hood's barn. Other requests 
were originated by Airborne Corps on the basis of 
1 Airborne's general situation, but Second TAF 
frequently objected to these on the grounds that 
it needed more precise information on where to 
strike. This was reasonable, although the airborne, 
so desperate that they called down artillery fire on 
their own positions, said later that they would 
rather have had inaccurate support than none. If 
only a "cab rank" patrol of fighters and fighter- 
bombers had been provided, prepared to take their 

152 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Market — The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

missions directly by ground-air radio from con- 
trollers on the spot, the problem of getting requests 
through to 83 Group would have ceased to be 
serious, and instructions could have been given 
with all necessary precision. In the opinion of 1 
Airborne close support thus provided would have 
been invaluable in the initial phase of MARKET 
and might have swung the scale from defeat to 
victory. 80 

In justice to Second TAF it should be said that 
it was gravely handicapped by orders not to send 
support missions over the MARKET area when 
airborne missions were in progress. This restric- 
tion, intended to reduce congestion and prevent 
possible clashes between friendly forces, was trans- 
formed by weather conditions, repeated short post- 
ponements of airborne missions and Second TAF's 
remoteness from Brereton's headquarters, into 
something like a prohibition. Over and over again 
support units would be grounded in the early 
morning by bad weather, and after that by the 
prospect of an airborne mission, which they would 
belatedly learn had been postponed a few hours. 
By the time the actual mission had come and gone 
the evening mists would be gathering or the clouds 
rolling in. Had support missions been flown like 
those of the troop carriers over a specified cor- 
ridor and had they been under effective ground-air 
control at destination, the restriction might have 
been dispensed with, making it possible to send 
planes to the aid of the airborne whenever weather 
permitted. , 

Instead direct air support during the nine de- 
cisive days of MARKET was decidedly inadequate 
except in a handful of cases. On 18 September 
97 Spitfires and Mustangs were sent to help the 
82d Division beat off the German attacks out of the 
Reichswald, and on 22 September 119 planes were 
sent to the assistance of the 101st Division, prob- 
ably in response to a specific request from the 
division which Second TAF had accepted. The first 
direct support at Arnhem came on 24 September 
when 22 Typhoons attacked German positions 
around 1 Airborne, and on the 25th when 7 Ty- 
phoons and 74 Mitchells and Bostons did likewise, 
all to very good effect but much too late to win. 
Some armed reconnaissance was also flown but to 
comparatively little avail, since the Germans sim- 
ply silenced their guns until the planes were past 
and waited until the coast was clear before send- 
ing in their own planes in repeated hit-and-run 

attacks, principally against 1 Airborne and the 82d 
Division. All in all, it must be said that ground 
support in MARKET was a difficult task badly 
handled, and that the support provided was too 
little and too late. 90 

The British glider pilots, who were organized 
as ground troops in a special glider pilot regiment, 
made a much better combat showing in MARKET 
than the American glider pilots, who were simply 
an element within the troop carrier squadrons. 
This contrast gave rise to proposals that the Ameri- 
can glider pilots be put under the command of the 
airborne divisions to make good soldiers of them. 
A conclusive answer to that was given by General 
Ridgway, who observed that since the primary 
duty of glider pilots was to fly gliders, they be- 
longed with the troop carriers. 91 

The idea has been advanced that, had the 
American glider pilots been comparable to the 
British as soldiers, the 8 2d Division could have 
sent them to the front in place of a regimental 
combat team and could have used the RCT to 
take the Nijmegen bridge on 19 September. 9 - This 
theory apparently rests on the fallacious assump- 
tion that the Americans, like the British, had co- 
pilots in their gliders, and that therefore over 900 
glider pilots were available. Since only a handful 
of co-pilots were used, it is clear after allowance 
for wounds, accidents, and releases in distant or 
hostile territory that the 82d Division could not 
possibly have mustered as many as 450 glider 
pilpts at any time up to the afternoon of D plus 6. 
Moreover, a large proportion of those it did have 
were engaged in essential duties, which someone 
would have had to do. Thus the net gain to the 
division from having the glider pilots organized as 
infantry would have been on the order of a com- 
pany rather than a regiment. 

The question of why they did not do better 
should be considered in connection with the situa- 
tion then existing. It was standard procedure to 
collect both British and American glider pilots at 
divisional CP's, use them for guard and supply 
duties, and evacuate them as soon as possible for 
employment in subsequent missions. Instructions 
for MARKET specified that they were to be used 
at the front only as a last resort. Nevertheless, 
they should have been trained for such an emerg- 
ency and were not. 

The equipment and briefing of the glider pilots 
was also unsuitable for a mission such as MAR- 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 153 

Market— The Airborn e Invasion of Holland 

KET. They were given no compasses; about half 
of them got no maps of their destination; and the 
others received only a single map on a scale of 
1 : 1 00,000. Most seem to have had a rather in- 
distinct blow-up of a high-altitude photograph of 
the landing area. The briefings were more con- 
cerned with the landing fields than with the sur- 
rounding terrain and said little of how and where 
the airborne units intended to deploy. 

The 101st Division, which had a broad, open 
zone and an efficient glider reception party, assem- 
bled its glider pilots quite successfully, but most of 
the 82d Division's gliders on D plus 1 had to land 
in rough, partly wooded areas some distance from 
their zones and in circumstances of great confusion 
because of the enemy offensive out of the Reichs- 
wald. Since the pilots of those gliders commonly 
had little knowledge of the terrain, very little idea 
of where they were, and no maps or compasses 
with which to orient themselves, it is not surprising 
that many, having been separated from their com- 
rades by some mishap, wandered about for as 
much as a day before finding their way to the CP. 

Once assembled, the glider pilots were an 
amorphous mass, almost without organization, 
and hard to handle because few knew any one 
outside the 70 or 80 men from their own group. 
The senior glider officer in the 8 2d Division's area 
attempted to exercise authority, but he had little 
to build on. He had no staff and no formal chain 
of command. The group and squadron staffs who 
ordinarily administered and commanded the glider 
pilots were back in England. He was from the 
50th Wing, and the bulk of the pilots, being from 
the 52d Wing, did not know him, questioned his 
authority and had no faith in his competence. 
After all, even the most disciplined infantry do 
better with officers whom they know. 

Because of the lack of organization, and be- 
cause the officer in command could not be every- 
where, details were sent out on the authority of 
junior airborne and glider officers without record 
or coordination. Furthermore, although few glider 
pilots left the assembly or bivouac areas without 
permission, a pilot not on detail could almost 
always get permission from someone, usually the 
ranking officer of his squadron or his group, to set 
out for home in accordance with the policy of 
quick evacuation. Thus many glider pilots were 
freed from military control to wander about on 

their own, hitchhiking, fighting, and sometimes 
just sight-seeing. 

The fact remains that over 90 percent of the 
glider pilots did their best in a difficult situation 
and served faithfully on guard and supply details 
and even as infantry. At midnight on the 20th, 
when the Germans were pressing the 82d Division 
very hard, some 300 glider pilots then in their 
bivouac, a barracks about a mile north of Mook, 
were called out, organized into companies and 
used as infantry at the front or in reserve. Most 
of them did not see much action, but about 100 
men of the 313th and 61st Groups under able 
leadership from Capt. E. D. Andross took over 
a section of the front near Mook for the 505th 
PIR and held it until relieved late on the 23d by 
other glider pilots, who in turn were relieved next 
day by the 325th Glider Infantry. Living in fox- 
holes, under frequent shelling and mortaring, 
soaked by repeated rains, almost without food 
except for raw carrots and turnips grubbed from 
the fields around them, Andross and his men did 
their best for three days and nights in the un- 
familiar role of combat infantry. On 24 Septem- 
ber they were being evacuated by truck when the 
Germans ambushed their convoy south of Veghel. 
The drivers dived for cover, but the glider pilots 
fought back, turned the trucks around under point- 
blank fire and drove 15 of them to safety. Theirs 
was a performance which would seem to call for 
some commendation. 

On the record then the American glider pilots in 
MARKET were under handicaps which made 
them seem less disciplined and competent than 
they were. They did need more infantry training. 
They did need to have a coherent and effective 
organization of their own instead of being the fifth 
wheels of the troop carrier squadrons. They also 
needed compasses, detailed maps, and a more effi- 
cient assembly system. Had these needs been met 
their performance would probably have satisfied 
their critics. One step in that direction was taken 
when, shortly after MARKET, General Brereton 
ordered that all glider pilots be given broader and 
continuing combat training." 3 

MARKET was the first major test of resupply 
by air, and the test demonstrated that it was, 
though practicable, both inefficient and hazardous 
and beset with unsolved problems. One problem 
was capacity. Approximately 200 C-47's were 
required to carry the 265 tons a day of automatic 

154 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater Market— The Airborne Invasion of Holland 

supply set up for the 82d Division. Stirlings could 
carry three tons apiece, but 38 Group had scarcely 
enough of them to meet the needs of one British 
division. While 250 converted B-24's had supplied 
the two American airborne divisions fairly well 
on D plus 1 and could have done better with a 
little more experience, the Eighth Air Force, 
which felt its participation in MARKET had seri- 
ously interrupted its bombing program, could not 
be expected to loan its B-24 groups frequently or 
for long. 

The tendency to dispersion inherent in a para- 
drop was accentuated by the multiplicity of small 
bundles and containers and by delays in getting 
bundles out the relatively small side door of the 
C-47 without the help of conveyors.* As a result 
supply collection consumed an excessive amount 
of manpower. General Gavin was not exaggerat- 
ing much when he estimated that prompt and 
efficient collection would take a third of his men. 
Obviously nothing like that number could be 
spared during a battle. 

No such supply fiasco as had occurred in NEP- 
TUNE took place in MARKET. However, at the 
most generous estimate 1 Airborne Division got 
less than 15 percent of the supplies dropped to it, 
the 101st Division got less than 50 percent of its 
supplies, and the 82d less than 70 percent. Much 
less would have been retrieved, particularly in the 
case of the 82d Division, had not the Dutch been 
exceptionally helpful and honest. All three air- 
borne divisions concluded that the bulk-loaded 
glider was a far more efficient means of supply 
than the parachute. However, gliders were so 
expensive and so vulnerable to bad weather or 
enemy action that parachute resupply still had to 
be relied on. 

One of the features of a resupply schedule to 
isolated troops is its inflexibility. The missions 
must be flown or the men will die. The British 
learned at Arnhem just how risky such missions 
could become. Out of 630 planes sent on resupply 
missions they lost 52, an average of 8.5 percent 
and had 281 planes, 44 percent of the total, dam- 
aged. They considered losses on this scale un- 
acceptable except in emergencies. Suggested reme- 
dies included high-altitude dropping, which was 
notoriously inaccurate with the techniques then 

^Lateral dispersion could be reduced by flying in a column of 
V's instead of the V of Vs. This had been done with good 
results in a resupply mission on D plus 8, but in a large mission 
that formation produced too long a column. 

used,* and drops from a pull-up after a low-level 
approach, a tactic which made navigation very 
difficult and was unlikely to reduce losses when 
the enemy was massed near the drop point. Prob- 
ably aware of such objections, the RAF command- 
ers arranged to have supplies delivered in the 
bomb, racks of fighter-bombers of 83 Group, and 
were about to try this experiment when 1 Airborne 
was evacuated. This abdication by the British 
troop carriers is striking evidence that the hazards 
of resupply had not been sufficiently appreciated. 94 
In spite of its failure and in spite of some mis- 
takes, MARKET was from the troop carrier point 
of view a brilliant success. The divisional com- 
manders and the Polish brigade commander were 
unanimous in praising the skill and courage of the 
troop carrier crews and in calling the missions the 
best they had ever had in combat or even in 
training. 95 

The bold decision to fly by daylight had proven 
safe and successful. In the first two days, before 
the enemy could react effectively, troop carrier 
losses had averaged less than 3 percent, and only 
one major American mission had losses heavier 
than 5 percent. Operation by daylight not only 
brought a tremendous increase in navigational ac- 
curacy, it also cut the assembly time of the airborne 
to one-third that normally required at night. The 
average assembly time for a regiment was 45 
minutes, and almost all regiments and smaller units 
were able to assemble at 80 to 100 percent of 
strength within an hour of arrival. The excellent 
drop given the 376th Field Artillery was especially 
noteworthy as proving that by daylight artillery 
could be dropped successfully to support para- 
troop infantry. 

Cautious critics qualified their praise of this 
achievement by noting that crushing air superiority 
had been needed in MARKET to protect airborne 
missions in daylight from enemy aircraft and flak. 
Some 5,200 sorties had been flown to protect the 
troop carriers from the remnants of the Luftwaffe 
and to neutralize antiaircraft batteries, f Flak sup- 
pression had proven both difficult and dangerous 
against well-camouflaged opponents who knew 

*That winter pilots of 38 Group under the direction of a con- 
trol team using "talking Eureka" made successful test drops 
from 7,000-10,000 feet with modified bomb sights and para- 
chutes set to open at 1,500 feet. 

tThe Eighth and Ninth Air Forces devoted 836 out of 3,352 
sorties to flak neutralization. The ratio for ADGB seems to 
have been similar, but since some of its missions were for both 
cover and flak protection a precise breakdown of its effort 
is not feasible. 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 155 

Market— The Airborn e Invasion of Holland 

when to hold their fire. Nevertheless, the guns 
had been silenced. As for the Luftwaffe, it was 
never able to break through the cordon of Allied 
fighters. Its only successful attacks against the 
troop carriers were made on one occasion when 
arrangements for escort and cover had broken 
down. 0,1 

Helpful as daylight was, it did not eliminate 
the need for pathfinders. The three serials which 
missed the mark in the initial paratroop drops were 
all trying to hit unmarked zones. The British, as 
a result of their difficulties in locating obscure 
supply drop points, were emphatic in recommend- 
ing maximum use of visual aids. !,T 

Among the most significant and successful inno- 
vations were the use of alternate routes and mul- 
tiple traffic lanes. The former had paid high 
dividends on D plus 1 when shifting from the 

southern to the northern route saved that day's 
missions from being grounded. The latter had 
proven that it was possible to cut the long troop 
carrier columns in half or even in quarters and 
send the segments in abreast so that a whole divi- 
sion might be landed in an hour. 

When all is said, it is not the monumental size 
nor the operational intricacies of MARKET which 
linger longest in the memory. It is the heroism of 
the men who flew burning, disintegrating planes 
over their zones as coolly as if on review and gave 
their lives to get the last trooper out, the last bun- 
dle dropped. It is the stubborn courage of the 
airborne troops who would not surrender though 
an army came against them. In the sense that 
both troop carrier crews and airborne troops did 
all that men could do, there was, as Gavin said, 
no failure in MARKET. 


Varsity--The Airborne Assault Across The Rhine 

Preliminary Planning 

AFTER MARKET the next Allied airborne 
l operation in the ETO was VARSITY, an 
enterprise designed to facilitate a crossing of the 
Rhine in the Wesel area. General Bradley had 
stated on 5 September that he wanted an airborne 
assault to help him hurdle the river. He had hopes 
of a breakthrough at Aachen followed by a drive 
toward Cologne, and with this in view Airborne 
Army prepared an outline plan for an operation 
called NAPLES II, the seizure by two airborne 
divisions of a bridgehead between Cologne and 

On 17 October Brereton's staff learned that 
Bradley was contemplating an additional new of- 
fensive on his left flank to reach the Rhine near 
Wesel. They examined the terrain north of Wesel, 
and, having found it for the most part very well 
suited to airborne operations, produced on 7 
November a short staff study containing the origi- 
nal plan for VARSITY. This entailed the use of 
the 17th Airborne Division and the British 6 
Airborne under command of XVIII Corps to take 
bridgeheads east of Emmerich, east of Rees, or in 
both areas in support of a prepared crossing by 
Ninth Army. 1 

It was originally supposed that the Rhine might 
be crossed before the end of November. However, 
Ninth Army plagued by bad weather, supply short- 
ages, and revived German resistance, was stopped 
at the Roer River, and on 20 November a meeting 
at SHAEF set New Year's Day as the target date 
for either VARSITY or NAPLES II. This sched- 
ule was swept into the wastebasket by the German 
Ardennes offensive which began on 1 6 December, 
and during the ensuing Battle of the Bulge Allied 
planning was necessarily defensive in character. 

By mid-January a full-scale counteroffensive was 
under way, and with the initiative once more in 
their hands Eisenhower and his staff again turned 
their attention to the question of how to secure 
decisive and final victory. 

They decided on a three-phase campaign, first 
an advance to the Rhine on so broad a front as 
to take the entire Rhineland and give the Allies 
the west bank of the river from Holland to the 
Alps, then assaults across the Rhine north of the 
Ruhr between Emmerich and Wesel and south of 
the Ruhr between Mainz and Karlsruhe, and finally 
a dual thrust into the heart of Germany. To satisfy 
Montgomery and the British Chiefs of Staff, who 
wished to concentrate on a single drive into north- 
ern Germany, the Supreme Commander agreed 
that the northern assault should be given maximum 
strength and should be launched as soon as pos- 
sible, even before operations west of the river were 
concluded. Thus the main effort to cross the 
Rhine was to be made in the very area for which 
VARSITY had been proposed. On 2 February 
the Combined Chiefs of Staff gave their approval 
to this strategy.- 

The firm decision by SHAEF to proceed with 
VARSITY and to give it priority over other pro- 
posed airborne operations was apparently taken 
about a week later. On 8 February Brereton was 
called in to confer on the subject with Eisenhower, 
and a day or so after that Ridgway was accorded 
an interview with the Supreme Commander, during 
which he was notified that the airborne troops in 
VARSITY would be commanded by XVIII Corps. 
On 10 February Airborne Army dusted off the 
November staff study and reissued it with remark- 
ably few changes as an outline plan. 3 

The greatest change was in the surface forces 


Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 157 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

whose crossing VARSITY was intended to sup- 
port. The sphere of 21 Army Group had been 
extended to include the Wesel area, displacing the 
United States Ninth Army southward so that its 
objectives beyond the Rhine lay between the Lippe 
river and the Ruhr. In addition M ontgomery h ad 
been given operati onal control of N inth Army, so 
all operations north of the Ruhr were in his hands. 
Already, on 4 February he had issued instructions 
which called for the Second British Army under 
Dempsey to secure crossings at Xanten 7 miles 
west of Wesel and at Rees, 12 miles northwest of 
the city in conjunction with a crossing by Ninth 
Army at Rheinberg, which was about 8 miles south 
of Wesel. The British amphibious operations were 
given the code name of PLUNDER. The Rhein- 
berg operation was later called FLASHPOINT. 

To the two airborne divisions originally selected 
for VARSITY was added the American 13th 
Airborne. This was an inexperienced outfit which 
had just arrived in France; no other divisions were 
available. The British 1 Airborne had been shat- 
tered at Arnhem, and the American 8 2d and 101st 
Divisions, having been held in the line almost 
continuously since September on what General 
Brereton considered very dubious grounds, would 
need several months to retrain and refit for air- 
borne missions. 4 

Development of the Assault Plan 

The main features of VARSITY were shaped 
during the last half of February and the first week 
in March by the Second Army, Airborne Army, 
and XVIII Corps commanders, Dempsey, Brere- 
ton, and Ridgway, with a minimum of participa- 
tion by Montgomery. Detailed planning between 
the troop carriers and the airborne appears to have 
begun with a conference on 21 February and to 
have been almost completed inside a fortnight, 
although IX TCC did not issue its field order until 
1 6 March. In this process the principal partici- 
pants were IX TCC, 38 Group, and XVIII Corps, 
assisted by representatives of 46 Group, the troop 
carrier wings, and the airborne divisions. 

During February Air Staff, SHAEF* blocked out 
an outline plan for the employment of cooperating 
air forces in VARSITY. On the 28th representa- 
tives of 21 Army Group, Airborne Army, Second 

*Air Staff, SHAEF had assumed responsibilities of head- 
quarters, AEAF, which had been dissolved 17 October 1944. 

Army, and the various air forces concerned met 
at SHAEF Forward to discuss their tasks and 
requirements. At that meeting responsibility for 
directing subsequent planning was given to Second 
Tactical Air Force , to which SHAEF, influenced 
by the evident need for more unified control of 
cooperating air forces than in MARKET, had dele- 
gated operational control of all such forces in 
VARSITY. At a meeting at Headquarters, Second 
TAF on 17 March plans were completed for all 
auxiliary air operations with the exception of 
some newly proposed by 21 Army Group, and on 
20 March Second TAF issued its Air Plan, a most 
complex and comprehensive document. 

It was clear from the start that there was barely 
enough lift for two divisions, so the 13th Airborne 
was placed in reserve. Employment of the unit in 
missions east of Wesel a few days after the original 
drops and crossings was considered and rejected, 
partly because the objectives were unsuitable, and 
partly because such a commitment would leave 
hardly any troops or gliders on hand for other 
airborne operations. Therefore on 6 March Brere- 
ton asked that the 13th Division be released from 
VARSITY. SHAEF agreed and reallocated the 
division to CHOKER II, an airborne operation to 
help the United States 7th Army cross the Rhine 
at Worms. However, by getting a foothold across 
the river between Worms and Mainz on the night 
of 22 March, a week before the target date for 
CHOKER, General Patton's 3d Army rendered 
that airborne enterprise unnecessary and, indeed, 
impracticable, because at that moment the troop 
carriers were marshalling for VARSITY. Several 
operations involving the 13th Airborne were plan- 
ned later, but all were cancelled for one reason or 
another, leaving it the only American division in 
the ETO which did not see action in World 
War II. 5 

Mindful of the way weather had disrupted the 
missions scheduled for the third day of MARKET, 
Brereton and his colleagues were anxious to de- 
liver all the airborne troops for VARSITY in one 
lift. However, it was not until 5 March that they 
felt sure they had the means to do this. Never 
before had two divisions been flown into battle in 
one single continuous effort. Larger numbers of 
troops had been delivered in both NEPTUNE and 
MARKET, but those operations had been ex- 
tended over several days so that planes and crews 
could be used more than once. 

158 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

At the end of February IX TCC had on hand 
1,264 C-47's, 117 C-46's, 1,922 CG-4A gliders, 
and 20 CG-13 gliders. Roughly speaking the 
C-46 was equivalent in capacity to two C-47's and 
the CG-13 to two Wacos. The commanders de- 
cided against using the CG-13's because there were 
not enough of them to warrant the complications 
their inclusion would produce in the flight plan 
and because they had arrived so recently that the 
troop carriers were still unfamiliar with them. Also 
they required exceptionally good and large landing 
fields, since their minimum landing speed was 80 
miles an hour. 

At a meeting of airborne and troop carrier 
representatives on 26 February, General Williams 
proposed to dispatch 400 paratroop aircraft and 
588 tug aircraft towing 660 Wacos for the Ameri- 
can airborne and 243 more planes to carry the 
British paratroops. The spokesman for the 17th 
Airborne considered that 370 C-47's would be 
enough to lift its two parachute combat teams 
but asked for more gliders than Williams had 
offered. They finally agreed that the American 
airborne should have a paratroop lift of 226 C-47's 
and 72 C-46's, the equivalent of 370 C-47's, and 
a glider lift of 906 Wacos towed by 610 C-47's. 
Since the C-46 could tow no more Wacos than the 
C-47 but could carry twice as many paratroops, 
its use for the latter purpose was logical. 

The SIL cercent incr ease in glider lift was made 
possible by a decision to make extensive use of 
double^ow, a tactic which had never been suc- 
cessfully used in combat,* although it had been 
known for some time that the C-47 could tow two 
Wacos at once. The flying personnel of IX TCC 
had been familiarized with double-tow during the 
winter and had not found it unduly difficult. A 
C-47 with two extra fuel tanks could fly 315 miles 
with two Wacos in tow. Insufficient for missions 
mounted from England, this range was adequate 
for planes based in the Paris area. 

The British with their very limited troop carrier 
force had great difficulty in finding enough lift for 
6 Airborne. On 26 February the division asked 
for 275 American aircraft to carry its paratroops. 
Williams responded that 243 planes was all he 
could spare, and that was all the division got. The 
airborne wanted between 406 and 425 planes 
from 38 and 46 Groups to tow their gliders, but 

*An attempt to use double-tow for an airborne mission in 
Burma in March 1944 had gone very badly. 

the two groups estimated that they could provide 
no more than 350 aircraft between them. Airborne 
Army raised 46 Group's quota from about 100 to 
1 20 aircraft by insisting that SHAEF pry 25 of its 
planes away from transport work for service in 
VARSITY. The commander of 38 Group ap- 
pealed to the Air Ministry on 1 March to give him 
104 converted Stirlings and Halifaxes as soon as 
possible. He got enough of them to raise his 
group's contribution from 240 to 320 planes. 

By using every qualified man including those 
whose tours of duty had expired and those as- 
signed to training units the two groups managed 
to scrape up crews for the extra planes. The 
British airborne, having expended their glider 
pilots freely at Arnhem, had only 7 1 2 men left in 
the Glider Pilot Regiment. To provide a pair of 
pilots for each of the 440 British gliders in VAR- 
SITY the regiment had to take pilots from the 
RAF and retrain them in glider flying and infantry 

The Americans would have had an adequate 
number of glider pilots had they not been required 
to keep a sufficient reserve to fly 926 gliders in 
CHOKER. Thus they too had to use converted 
power pilots as glider pilots. About half of the 
co-pilots for the Wacos in VARSITY were drawn 
from this source." 

It had been decided between 25 January and 
8 February that in any of the airborne operations 
then under consideration the British troops would 
be flown from England and the Americans from 
the Continent.* Early in October 38 Group had 
been moved to bases in Essex northeast of Lon- 
don, a shift which put it about 100 miles nearer 
the VARSITY area and within reasonable range 
of its objectives in that operation. It would ob- 
viously have been preferable to base it on the 
Continent, but runways capable of handling its 
Halifaxes and Stirlings were not obtainable in 

One American troop carrier wing, the 50th, had 
been located since late September in territory 
southwest of Paris with its headquarters at 
Chartres, the 439th Group at Chateaudun, the 
440th Group at Bricy, the 441st at Dreux, and 
the 442d at St. Andre-de-l'Eure. 

On or about 7 February the 53d Wing was in- 
formed that it would soon be moved to France. 
On 9 February orders were given to IX TCC and 

*For route orientation refer to Map No. 1 1, p. 162. 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 159 

IX Engineer Command to repair and expand 15 
French airfields before 15 March for troop carrier 
use. On 1 1 February IX TCC issued movement 
orders directing the 53d Wing to begin moving to 
France next day and be fully established by the 
end of the month with headquarters at Voisenum, 
the 434th Group at Mourmelon-le-Grand, the 
435th at Bretigny, the 436th at Melun, the 437th 
at Coulommiers and the 438th at Prosnes. These 
bases were dispersed over a wide area southeast 
of Paris. 

While all or most of the above actions had been 
decided on before the outline plan of 10 February 
was issued, the location of the 52d Wing and 46 
Group had not been settled. Because the British 
needed every plane in 38 and 46 Groups to tow 
gliders, three groups of the 52d Wing were allo- 
cated to carry their paratroops. Picked for the 
job were the 61st, 315th, and 316th Groups, the 
first two of which had flown British paratroops 
in MARKET. It would be very difficult for those 
groups to fly their missions from their home bases 
in the Grantham area or for 46 Group to do so 
from its fields in south-central England. There- 
fore it was decided that they should stage from 
East Anglia where they would be near 38 Group, 
could operate under its direction, and would have 
substantially shorter distances to fly. 

The question of which airfields would be used 
for the purpose was not settled until 2 March when 
the Eighth Air Force agreed to loan Gosfield, 
Birch, Boreham , Chipping Ong ar. and Wether s- 
field. The first two went to 46 Group. The 315th 
got Boreham, and the 61st received Chipping 
Ongar. After some uncertainty as to whether 
Wethersfield would be usable that base was as- 
signed to the 316th Group. 

The rest of the 52d Wing was slated to move 
from England to a group of bases between 60 and 
90 miles north of Paris, but its shipment was 
delayed presumably because of doubt as to 
whether the bases would be ready in time. Finally 
on 23 February IX TCC ordered wing headquar- 
ters to Amien s, the 313th Group to Achiet and 
the 314th Group to Poix. Three neighbormg fields, 
Abbeville-Drucat, Ami ens /Glisy and Vitry-en- 
Artois~ w ere being repaired for use by "units of 
the 52d. At a conference on 26 February the 
wing commander successfully insisted that his 
three groups flying British troops from the United 
Kingdom be allowed to land at those bases after 

the operation instead of having to go back across 
the Channel. 

Up to that time the role of the pathfinder group 
in VARSITY had remained in doubt. The objec- 
tives were so close to friendly territory that use of 
pathfinder teams would hardly be necessary, and 
so close to German positions that an advance drop 
by such teams would be suicidal. However, an- 
other group was wanted to fly paratroops for the 
17th Division, and to fill that need the pathfinders 
were ordered on 27 February to move from Chal- 
grove to Chartres. 7 

Plans for the exercise of command and control 
were complete by the end of February. General 
Brereton would command Airborne Army with 
Williams heading its troop carrier component and 
Ridgway its airborne. Since both Brereton and 
Ridgway would be on the Continent, operational 
control of the troop carrier missions to be flown 
from England was delegated to AOC, 38 Group. 
Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham, AOC of the 
Second Tactical Air Force, RAF, was to command 
all cooperating air forces except bombers on re- 
supply missions, which, of course, would be under 
Brereton's jurisdiction. Coningham delegated 
control of the air over the battle area to the AOC, 
83 Group so that quick changes could be made 
there if the tactical situation dictated. Coningham 
and Brereton together would coordinate the air- 
borne missions with the auxiliary missions and 
would decide whether VARSITY was to be can- 
celled or postponed. 

The headquarters from which VARSITY was 
to be directed were distributed of necessity among 
three widely separate places, Paris, Brussels, and 
Mark's Hall, the 38 Group headquarters. Most 
of the troop carrier bases in France were fairly 
near Paris, so on 18 February Airborne Army 
moved its headquarters to Maison Lafitte on the 
outskirts of that city. On 22 February the troop 
carrier headquarters at Ascot detached a group of 
plans and operations men for duty at the Chateau 
de Prunay in Louveciennes, about six miles from 
Maison Lafitte, and on ; the 24th, Forward Head- 
quarters, IX TCC, was officially opened at the 

Although XVIII Corps had its headquarters at 
Epernay about 70 miles from Paris, it was able to 
maintain close liaison with Airborne Army. Not 
so with Second TAF. Coningham's large head- 
quarters was firmly established in. Brussels beside; 

160 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

that of Montgomery. Since Coningham and Brere- 
ton would have to decide jointly on whether to 
postpone VARSITY and might have to make joint 
decisions during the operation, it was decided that 
the latter, accompanied by a small staff, would go 
to Brussels shortly before the launching of VAR- 
SITY and set up a Command Post at Headquar- 
ters, Second TAF. This CP, officially called 
FA A A TAC, was opened on 22 March. The 
operations center at Maison Lafitte was then 
designated FAAA CCP. Routine control and 
supervision of the airborne missions would be 
exercised partly from Maison Lafitte and partly 

from Mark's Hall. Command decisions would be 


made in Brussels and transmitted to the distant 
controllers for implementation. It was certainly 
an awkward arrangement, and although it worked 
without a hitch during the execution of VARSITY, 
everyone seems to have been rather relieved that 
it did so. 8 

Obviously PLUNDER and VARSITY could 
not be launched until the enemy had been driven 
from the Rhineland. In early February Mont- 
gomery believed that the crossing might be made 
by 15 March, but stubborn German resistance 
caused the target date to be set back to the 25th 
and then to the 31st of March. Finally, late in 
February, the Nazis~cracked, and on 2 March 
Ninth Army broke through to the Rhine at Neuss. 

The army commander, Lt. Gen. William H. 
Simpson, seeing little opposition ahead of his 
forces, proposed to make a surprise crossing. 
Montgomery, always inclined to prefer a "set 
piece" to impromptu action, vetoed the sugges- 
tion, but he did decide to advance the target date 
for VARSITY to 24 March, and he seems to have 
seriously considered launching it on short notice 
in the event of a breakthrough near Wesel. On 
being asked how long it would take to mount a 
"hasty" VARSITY, Airborne Army replied on 3 
March that it would need at least a week to do a 
good job. No such haste was required. The Ger- 
mans facing Second Army continued to fight with 
desperate fanaticism and held the west bank of 
the Rhine until 10 March. Then they withdrew 
across the river under cover of bad weather, blow- 
ing the last bridge behind them. Since by that time 
it was clear that a crossing in the Wesel area 
would meet substantial opposition, Montgomery 
adhered to his plans for an overwhelming blow 
requiring a fortnight for deployment. Accordingly 

on 8_Mnrch SHAEF officially set the 24th of that 
month as the target date for VARSITY. 9 

In order to launch VARSITY on the day pre- 
scribed, Airborne Army required visibility of at 
least three miles, a ceiling above 1,500 feet, and 
winds less than 20 miles an hour. In addition the 
planners wanted at least two days of good weather 
immediately before D-day for preliminary air 
operations. In northwest Germany March is not 
a pleasant month. Weather experts estimated that 
between 15 March and 15 April only about half 
the days would meet FAAA requirements and 
that there would be only two periods of three 
successive days suitable for air operations. So 
essential did Montgomery consider his airborne 
cohorts that on 19' February his chief of staff told 
~Rrp.rp.trni fhat if th^trnnp carriers were grou nded 
by bad weather PLUNDfiR would be postponed 
until'Tlvey^ould'^oTLater he agreed that a post- 
pon ement of uptp fi ye da ys would be acceptable. 10 

Barely a week before D-day, representatives of 
21Arm y Gro up, probably speaking on Dempsey's 
befialf, asked for preparation of an alternate air- 
borne operation ready to fly on 24-hour notice 
in support of PLUNDER in case bad weather did 
force cancellation of VARSITY. By 21 March 
Airborne Army had drawn up plans for an alter- 
nate operation in the vicinity of Erie, a town 12 
miles east of the Wesel area. However, both 
Coningham and Brereton insisted on 48 hours 
notice to provide for rebriefing and anti-flak 
operations. 1 1 

General Dempse y of Second Army gave VAR- 
SITY its obje ctive, the Diersfordter W ald, a wood 
between th ree and fiye m iles east of the Rhine on 
the crest of a gentle rise. Though scarcely 100 
feet above the river, the high ground provided the 
only good natural observation points in that area 
and the trees provided cover from which artillery 
could rake the stream. Until the wood was taken 
no bridge could be expected to last long. 

Consequently Dempsey urged that instead of 
being put down close to the river as proposed in 
the outline plan, the airborne should be placed 
further east, close to the Diersfordter Wald, and 
out of the field of fire of artillery supporting the 
amphibious assault. Brereton and Ridgway agreed, 
and the trio decided to drop and land the troops as 
near the wood as possible, thereby ehminajing long 
marches such as had cost the British so dearly 
in MARKET. After occupying the wood XVIII 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 161 

Corps was to push west to make contact with 
Second Army, then south to the Lippe to seal 
off Wesel and make contact with the Ninth Army. 
After that it would prepare to advance eastward 
as part of Dempsey's forces. 

According to the initial plans the airborne and 
amphibious assaults were to be launched simul- 
taneously and at night. With the change in ob- 
jectives went a change in timing. The open fields 
by the river might well be attacked at night, but it 
would be tempting fate to make a night attack on 
prepared positions in the depths of a wood. Also, 
whereas the river bank would have had to be taken 
early to aid the surface assault, there was no neces- 
sity to take the Diersfordter Wald until bridging 
operations began. On such grounds as these Gen- 
eral Dempsey recommended that the airborne at- 
tack go by daylight after PLUNDER had begun. 
For reasonsj of his own Brereton agreed. Besides a 
conviction that troop carrier operations would be 
much more accurate by day, he had a strong 
expectation that they would be safer. By day the 
Allies ruled the skies challenged only by a handful 
of jet fighters. After dark the German night-fighter 
force, conserved for the defense of the Reich, was 
still a serious threat.* Accordingly the plans were 
drawn for an amphibious assault an hour or two 
before dawn, followed at 1000 hours by the air- 
borne attack. Since hitherto the airborne phase 
had ordinarily begun first, this timing offered a fair 
prospect of catching the Germans in the Diersford- 
ter Wald by surprise. 12 

Drop and landing zones f were selected on the 
basis of previous studies of the VARSITY area by 
IX TCC. Eight were on or near the east side of 
the Diersfordter Wald, and two, both for para- 
troops, were set into indentations on the west side 
of the wood at its northern and southern tips where 
it was relatively narrow. None of the eastern zones 
was more than 200 yards from a neighbor, and 
even those on the west side were within a mile of 
other zones. All 10 were packed into an area less 
than six miles long and five miles wide, an un- 
precedented degree of concentration. The chance 
that any airborne unit would be isolated was re- 
mote, but the risk of overlapping and confusion 
was considerable. 

*It should also be noted that the bad condition and short 
runways of some troop carrier fields in France made them 
unsuitable for glider operations at night. (Notes of Group 
Commanders' Mtg, 50th TC Wing, 8 Feb 45 in Hist 50th TC 
Wg, Feb 45.) 

tFor DZ and LZ orientation, refer to Map No. 12, p. 175. 

Almost all of the drop and landing area was 
fi™»JgyeJLj; r oun d; and the zones consisted of 
fields and meadows averaging 200 to 300 yards in 
length. Hedges were small and fences light, about 
half of the latter being made of wire. Ditches were 
few and small. There was no sign that the enemy 
was preparing landing obstacles. Aside from the 
Diersfordter Wald itself, there were five notable 
features. A double-track5d_nulroad to Wesel cut 
diagonally across the area from northwest to 
southeast. A few hundred yards to the east of 
the railroad was a high-tension power line on 100- 
foot pylons, a major hazard to gliders and para- 
troops. Bordering the eastern edge of the area 
and running south^southeast was the Issel River, 
a water barrier 60 feet wide. Just east of the river 
lay a half -completed autobahn (trunk highway) 
150 feet wide, heavily embanked at some points, 
and lined with construction equipment. About a 
mile inside the northeast corner of the area was the 
little town of Hamminkeln. There were many 
minor hazards, tree-bordered roads, local power- 
lines, windmills, and the like, but it was most im- 
portant to avoid depositing the airborne in the 
woods, in or beyond the Issel, or against the high- 
tension line. 13 

In November the Operational Plans Officer of 
IX TCC had proposed that the VARSITY mis- 
sions follow a route from England to Blanken- 
berge on the Dutch coast and from there to an 
IP at Goch, about 10 miles west of Rees. This 
way was short and straight with plenty of natural 
check points, but it involved a long overwater 
flight and was too far north to be convenient for 
units based around Paris. In March a course 
which would be about equally feasible for all 
units was finally chosen.* The British and Ameri- 
can troop carriers based in East Anglia would use 
Hawkinge near Folkestone on the Kentish coast 
as their departure point and would fly from there 
to the tip of Cape Gris Nez, an overwater leg of 
only 27 miles to an easily recognizable landmark. 
Thence they would go east-southeast for 5 1 miles 
to Bethune and from there 87 miles east-northeast 
to Wavre, a rail and highway junction 11 miles 
southeast of Brussels. A straight flight from Gris 
Nez to Wavre had to be avoided because it would 
pass within radar range of German forces holding 
out at Dunkirk, and so involved the risk of pre- 
mature discovery. Wavre was to be the Command 

*SeeMapNo. 11, p. 162. 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 163 

Assembly Point. This location involved the least 
possible detour for the troop carrier wings in 
France and could be reached by all of them with- 
out their crossing each other's courses or wing 
assembly areas. At the same time it was far enough 
from the front so that the troop carrier columns 
could be massed on one route under full escort 
before coming within range of enemy fighters. 

From Wavre the course went straight for 92 
miles to the northeast, passing over the road and 
rail junction of Diest 27 miles from Wavre and 
over the hamlet of Marheeze 32 miles beyond 
Diest, to Weeze, a village on the Nierse River 
about a dozen miles west of the Rhine. Weeze was 
chosen as the principal Initial Point and was given 
the code name YALTA. 

The system of multiple traffic lanes used in 
MARKET had been proposed for VARSITY in 
November and was embodied in the final plan. 
There were to be three lanes spaced IV2 miles 
apart. The contingent bringing 6 Airborne Division 
from the United Kingdom would follow the north- 
ern lane to their Initial Point, head from there for 
the six northernmost zones, and turn north onto a 
reciprocal course after delivering their troops. 
Their IP, (YALTA NORTH) was located beside 
a railroad north of Weeze, and east of an oxbow 
loop in the Nierse River. It lay between 15 and 18 
miles from the zones. 

Actually there were two northern routes, lying 
at different levels. The American C-47's flying 
paratroops were to fly at 1,500 feet until nearing 
the IP, while the British glider stream would keep 
to an altitude of 2,500 feet. This would enable 
the American serials flying British paratroops at 
140 miles an hour to pass under the Dakotas of 
46 Group, towing Horsas at 115 miles per hour, 
and make their drop ahead of them. The British 
had some tug-glider combinations in 38 Group 
cruising at 135 miles per hour and others at 145 
miles an hour. In order to get a continuous stream 
at the IP the slow units were given a head start at 
Hawkinge such that by holding to the proper 
speed the faster ones would catch up with them 
at Weeze. 

The American glider serials would occupy the 
center lane and use a bridge over the Nierse on 
the east side of Weeze as their IP. The para- 
troop serials of the 17th Airborne would follow 
the southern lane to their IP (YALTA SOUTH), 
a castle beside the Nierse \Vi miles south of 

Weeze. Although the last two paratroop serials in 
the south lane would fly for a while parallel to the 
first glider serial in the center, the former because 
of greater cruising speed were expected to pull 
ahead by five minutes before reaching their Initial 
Point.* All the American airborne were to be 
dropped or landed on the four southernmost 
zones, after which the planes bringing them would 
make a 180 degree turn to the right onto a recipro- 
cal course for the return trip. 

These arrangements made it possible to deliver 
the two divisions simultaneously, and, by the use 
of tight spacing, to compress the whole operation 
within a period of 2 hours and 37 minutes. The 
paratroop serials, formed as usual of 9-aircraft 
V's of V's in trail, were to be spaced at 4-minute 
intervals if numbering more than 40 aircraft and 
at 3-minute intervals if smaller than that. Ameri- 
can glider serials would fly in pairs of pairs in 
echelon to the right with a 1,500-foot interval 
between successive elements. Single-tow serials 
were to be seven minutes apart. Double-tow serials 
got 10 or 12 minutes depending on whether they ? 
contained as many as 40 planes, because the ntftr- 
elty of double-tow made it advisable to allow mar- 
gin for error. The British glider stream, flying in 
loose pairs at 10-second intervals, had a time 
length of only 39 minutes as compared to 2 hours 
and 6 minutes for the American gliders. However, 
the former had only 440 big gliders to deliver, 
while the latter had 906 Wacos. 14 

Navigation in VARSITY would be relatively 
easy, since flight was to be by day, over a straight 
course from Wavre to Weeze, and in friendly 
territory to within six miles of the objectives. 
Notwithstanding this, navigational aids were to be 
installed at 17 places including all turns. The 
longest unmarked stretches were one of 89 miles 
between Laon and Wavre and one of 87 between 
Bethune and Wavre. Beyond Wavre the longest 
gap was a mere 33 miles. From Wavre on, the 
missions would never be out of range of a Eureka 
beacon. All check points were to have Eurekas. 
Beacon lights of the type known as pundits were 
to be used at wing departure points and at 
Bethune, Wavre, and the IP. Cape Griz Nez, St. 
Quentin, and all points from Wavre to the Rhine 
inclusive were to have M/F beacons. In addition 

*A11 American gliders were limited to the pace of the double- 
tow serials, 110 miles an hour. Two of the last three paratroop 
serials were made up of C-46's travelling at 165 miles an hour, 
the other of C-47's at 140 miles an hour. 

164 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

smoke signals and colored panels were to be set 
out at LAST LAP, L, K, M and N, the points 
where formations would cross the west bank of 
the Rhine. All parties operating navigational aids 
were kept in contact with FAAA by radio or tele- 
phone, so that they could be notified of any change 
of schedule. 

Separate pathfinder operations were omitted. 
They were regarded as unnecessary because navi- 
gation was so easy, as suicidal because the zones 
were in a strongly defended area, and as harmful 
because they would forfeit all chance of surprise. 
However, the lead aircraft in the first serial to 
pass over each of the four British and American 
drop zones was to drop a stick of pathfinder troops 
who were to set out colored panels and smoke 
but no beacons for the initial missions. Each air- 
' borne division was to bring in two M/F beacons 
and have one in operation on its supply drop 
zone in time to guide in the B-24 resupply mission. 
Eureka beacons were to be used on the zones for 
the D plus 1 resupply missions if IX TCC so de- 
sired. To avoid flak on its resupply mission 38 
Group had worked out a plan to drop from 
around 8,000 feet on verbal directions from the 
pathfinder party by "talking Eureka" (Eureka 
with voice hook-up) to personnel in a "master" 
plane who in turn would direct the drop verbally 
over VHF radio. Three sets of "talking Eureka" 
were brought in, but the group never got a chance 
to try its scheme. 

One promising type of radar, the SCR-717 was 
rejected, because the terrain along most of the 
route was not such as would show up well on its 
scope and because the BUPS beacons which could 
be used with it were not available. Gee, however, 
would be employed. Good coverage was available 
from three existing chains and another was about 
to open. Instructions for use of Rebecca followed 
the sensible pattern adopted after NEPTUNE. 
Only flight leaders or their substitutes were to 
operate Rebecca unless the formations broke up, 
in which case the leader of each separate element 
was to turn on his set. Use of IFF by flight leaders 
or stragglers when above overcast was authorized, 
but it was made unnecessary on D-day by the im- 
position of rigid restrictions on antiaircraft fire and 
by the clear weather then prevailing. 

Communication between aircraft during VAR- 
SITY was limited to extreme emergencies and 
exercise of command functions at or above wing 

level until planes were at least 40 miles along on 
their homeward way. Then navigational informa- 
tion might be requested. This air-to-air com- 
munication was to be by VHF. A special ground- 
air W/T station was to be operated by IX TCC 
Forward. Over it, if necessary, recall signals could 
be sent to serials anywhere on the route. Two 
aircraft in each flight were to watch that frequency. 

Two new organizations, the combat control 
team and the. forward visual control post, had 
recently been created to remedy the communica- 
tions deficiencies which had played so serious a 
part in MARKET. Both were used in VARSITY. 

The troop carrier command had begun in 
January to organize combat control teams from its 
glider pilots and enlisted technicians on the basis 
of two teams for each American airborne division. 
The functi on, of the teams was to inform head- 
quarters and incoming serials of conditions in 
the battle area, particularly weather and enemy 
resistance, and to notify the airborne in turn of any 
changes in troop carrier plans, especially regard- 
ing timing, course or zones. Each team was com- 
posed of five men with a jeep and a quarter-ton 
trailer, modified to hold a power unit, an SCR-399 
or 499 for communication with headquarters, and 
an SCR-522 for VHF radio conversation with 
missions overhead. In the coming operation two 
teams, one a spare in case of accidents or casual- 
ties, were to be landed at opposite ends of LZ N 
to operate for XVIII Corps. Each was to go in 
three Wacos, one for the jeep, one for the trailer, 
and one containing equipment for medical evacua- 
tion by glider pick-up. Two gliders loaded with 
wounded had been "snatched" very successfully 
from the Remagen bridgehead, and the troop car- 
riers were prepared to evacuate large numbers of 
patients by glider in VARSITY under the direction 
of a combat control team if conditions warranted. 

The forward visual control posts were fighter 
control teams with the primary purpose of direct- 
ing close support aircraft. They had recently been 
organized by 38 Group. Each team had a jeep and 
a trailer and for VARSITY was equipped with 
two VHF sets, one for ground-to-ground com- 
munication by which to call for support aircraft 
and one for air-to-air communication by which to 
direct the planes to their targets. A whole team 
could fit in one Horsa. In VARSITY three 
FVCP's were to be flown in to 6 Airborne Division. 
One would serve that division, one would move 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 165 

south to work for the 17th Airborne, and one 
would act as a reserve. Because the FVCP's had 
been created only a short time before the opera- 
tion, their personnel had very little training in 
either airborne operations or close support. Not- 
withstanding this handicap they were to prove 
very valuable. 15 

Although Airborne Army expected its troops to 
link up with the British ground forces within a 
few hours, it regarded resupply by air as highly 
desirable, because Second Army probably could 
not put more than one bridge in operation on D- 
day and at first would need everything that could 
be brought in by bridge or boat. However, it was 
in the critical early hours of the operation that the 
airborne, too, most urgently would need supplies, 
particularly ammunition. On D plus 1 resupply 
might be too late or might be prevented by bad 
weather. Resupply at night might be inaccurate 
and surely would be hard to recover. On D-day 
itself the troop carriers would be fully occupied 
with the initial missions. The solution was to fly the 
supplies in by bomber as had been done on the sec- 
ond day of MARKET. On 28 February Airborne 
Army asked USSTAF to have Eighth Air Force 
dispatch 240 Liberators from England on D-day 
with 540 tons of supplies for its troops. The 
request was granted. 

The supply drop was scheduled to occur at 
1 300 hours, about 20 minutes after the last gliders 
landed. So early a drop involved some risk that 
zones still would be in enemy hands, but it alst) 
had great advantages. The same air effort set up 
to protect the troop carriers from enemy air and 
ground action would serve to protect the bombers; 
and the airborne, instead of keeping large numbers 
of fighting men waiting for hours to guard zones 
and pick up supplies, could collect their bundles 
soon after assembling and go about their business. 
Both troop carrier and resupply missions were to 
follow the same route. Primarily intended to 
simplify control of fire from Allied antiaircraft 
batteries, this plan also facilitated fighter protec- 
tion and use of navigational aids. 

Remembering the miscarriage of MARKET, 
Brereton and Ridgway were anxious to provide 
against the contingency, however remote, that the 
Second Army assault might be contained, leaving 
the airborne cut off from supplies. Therefore on 
5 March the two agreed to have a resupply mission 
ready to go on D plus 1 unless cancelled. In final 

form this consisted of 440 C-47's of IX TCC 
carrying 550 tons of materiel and 240 planes of 
38 Group carrying 530 tons, enough to last the 
two divisions for two days. If bad weather in 
England or over the Channel grounded 38 Group, 
a substitute force of 75 Dakotas of 46 Group 
would take off from Nivelles near Brussels with 
high-priority items for the British airborne. Like- 
wise, if the troop carrier units on the Continent 
were grounded, C-47's from England would fly 
a one-day level of supplies to the 17th Division. 
In addition, preparations were made to deliver on 
request an additional two-day level of supplies for 
6 Airborne and a one-day level for the 17th 
Airborne. 16 

Not until after the middle of March were de- 
cisions reached on how to protect the troop carrier 
missions from being fired on in error by Allied 
gunners, but the action finally taken was very 
thorough as far as the D-day missions were con- 
cerned. Fighter Command, RAF, agreed to pro- 
hibit antiaircraft fire near the troop carrier path 
in England from 0700 to 1500 hours. A repre- 
sentative of the naval commander concerned made 
a like promise for naval antiarcraft in the Thames 
estuary and within a 10-mile belt along the troop 
carrier route across the Channel. The 21 Army 
Group directed that on the Continent within a 
strip 30 miles wide centered on the route no flak 
was to be fired west of the Maas between 0700 and 
1500 or east of it between 0900 and 1400. Outside 
the prohibited zone no guns were to fire on air- 
craft during the period of the missions unless they 
committed a hostile act. 

On the Second Army front no guns or mortars 
near the troop carrier lanes were to fire on tra- 
jectories higher than 500 feet between 0958 and 
1330 hours. As further insurance the artillerymen 
were to detail a special watch to report on ap- 
proaching formations and on such damaged air- 
craft as might dip low over the guns on their return. 

During the resupply mission on D plus 1 anti- 
aircraft batteries were to fire only on planes com- 
mitting hostile acts, except that within 12,000 
yards of the Rhine crossings at Xanten and Rees 
they might fire on aircraft definitely recognized as 
hostile. This exception destroyed most of the value 
of the protective clause, for within the 12,000- 
yard radius around the crossings was the very area 
where battle-smoke and battle-tension might cause 
the supply formations to be fired upon. The 

166 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

determination of Second Army to protect its pon- 
toon bridges from German bombers was reason- 
able enough, but the fact remains that the D plus 1 
mission in VARSITY was to have no more pro- 
tection from Allied antiaircraft fire at the front 
than the unfortunate follow-up mission to Sicily, 
which had been smashed by friendly guns. 17 

Planning for Auxiliary Air and 
Artillery Action 

Traditionally the most important task of co- 
operating air units in an airborne operation was to 
protect it from enemy air. This was not so in 
VARSITY, for the German Air Force was in 
eclipse. Its maximum 24-hour effort against VAR- 
SITY had been estimated in November as 365 
sorties by day and 265 by night. On 16 March 
IX TCC rated its capacity as 425 by day and 410 
by night. 18 

Weak as it was, German air could inflict great 
damage by night attacks on troop carrier fields 
during the marshalling period. A survey made late 
in February showed that the small size and bad 
condition of many troop carrier fields in France 
made dispersion impossible. Thus a few raiders 
sweeping over a crowded parking area could put 
a whole group out of operation. On 3 and 4 
March the Germans demonstrated their ability 
to make such a raid. Night fighters sneaked in 
behind homeward-bound British bombers, inflicted 
substantial losses on the British, and did some 
damage in secondary attacks at Cottesmore and 
Barkston Heath. Action to meet the threat was 
initiated by IX TCC on 6 March with the result 
that at least one automatic antiaircraft battery 
was stationed at every troop carrier base in France, 
and Ninth Air Force agreed to hold night-fighter 
units on call during the critical marshalling period 
after 20 March to defend those airfields. 19 

The Luftwaffe did have a new and formidable 
weapon, the jet fighter. About 80 jets, able to 
fly rings around all Allied fighters then in action, 
had been accumulated during the winter at a 
group of airfields near Rheine within easy range 
of the Wesel area. The best way to stop the jets 
was on the ground. Once they were in the air, at 
least a few of them could probably outrace escort- 
ing fighters and make a stab at the troop carriers. 
Therefore on 17 March the Eighth Air Force was 
given the task of bombing the five jet bases and 

10 others within 25 miles of Wesel which were 
suitable for jets. This was to be done on D minus 
3 or as soon thereafter as weather permitted. Since 
some damaged fields might be repaired within 36 
hours, the bombing was to be repeated on D-day 
before 0915, subject to confirmation by Second 
TAF. To make sure no jets got away, RAF fighters 
of 83 Group would patrol over the jet bases from 
first light on D-day until the bombers arrived. On 
confirmation by. Second TAF, Eighth Air Force 
was also to bomb German night-fighter bases just 
before dark on D-day. This action, however, was 
intended to protect the troops on the ground, 
rather than the troop carriers. 20 

Escort and cover were to be provided on a mas- 
sive scale. The troop carrier stream from the 
United Kingdom would be escorted as far as the 
Rhine and back by 1 1 Group, RAF. Units based 
in France would be escorted to and from the river 
by fighters of Ninth Air Force. Beyond the Rhine 
there would be no escort, but a system of stand- 
ing patrols would be maintained on D-day from 
dawn to dark. Responsibility for the VARSITY 
assault area rested on 83 Group, RAF, which was 
to patrol a zone 50 miles deep bounded by the 
Lippe, the Rhine, and a line touching Emmerich, 
Enschede, Minister, and Hamm. Similar zones to 
the north and south would be patrolled by 84 
Group and the XXIX Tactical Air Command re- 
spectively. Fighters of the Eighth Air Force would 
patrol east of the three zones to intercept enemy 
aircraft approaching the battle area from other 
parts of Germany. 21 

Diversionary feints in the direction of Borkum, 
an island off the German coast, were to be flown 
by Coastal Air Command, RAF, and certain mis- 
sions by Bomber Command, RAF, against targets 
on the northern edge of the Ruhr had in part a di- 
versionary purpose. These thrust were well suited 
to draw off interceptors which might be used 
against the troop carriers. Although Fifteenth 
Air Force agreed to send a very large bomber 
force from Italy against Berlin, Munich and other 
targets in Central Europe, the direction of ap- 
proach and the fact that all its objectives were 
over 300 miles from Wesel make it difficult to 
regard this effort as diversionary in the strict sense 
of the word. It may have been meant to discourage 
redeployment of German fighter units to the west- 
ern front. A diversionary dummy-dropping mis- 
sion by Bomber Command was considered but not 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 167 

attempted, partly because that kind of deception 
was considered useless by day, which was when 
VARSITY would need it most, and partly because 
units previously used in such work were not 
available. 22 

Flak was the weapon most feared by the plan- 
ners of VARSITY. This fear was due as much 
to the nature of the operation as to the weakness 
of the Luftwaffe. There was no way for the troop 
carriers to fly around the enemy strong points. 
Those strong points were their objectives. In 
December the A-3 of IX TCC had warned that 
antiaircraft fire might inflict losses such as the 
command had never before encountered. In 
March Air Marshal Coningham called flak his 
chief anxiety. On 19 March intelligence experts 
reported a very considerable build-up of German 
antiaircraft artillery in the VARSITY area. 23 

The situation had one advantage in that over 
2,000 Allied guns were massed within range of 
the German batteries. Second and Ninth Armies 
agreed to neutralize flak within range of their 
field artillery. German batteries further away or 
masked from artillery fire were to be dealt with 
by air action. The line dividing the two areas of 
attack split the drop and landing area approxi- 
mately in half, providing an opportunity to com- 
pare the results of shell-fire and bombardment. 

Known enemy batteries were to be left strictly 
alone until D-day so they would not go into hid- 
ing. On the 24th, an hour before the troop car- 
rier columns arrived, medium bombers of the 
Ninth Air Force and 2 Group, RAF, would begin 
a half -hour attack on antiaircraft positions beyond 
the artillery boundary, using fragmentation clusters 
and proximity fuses as far as possible to avoid 
cratering the drop and landing zones. Between 
the departure of the mediums and the arrival of 
the airborne missions Allied artillery would ham- 
mer flak positions within its sector. Flak-busting 
fighter-bomber patrols contributed by 83 and 84 
Groups and XXIX TAC would arrive at 0930 as 
the mediums left and would be maintained over 
the area until 1300 in readiness to silence batteries 
observed firing on the troop carrier missions. 24 

As to the German ground forces opposing 
PLUNDER and VARSITY, Allied hopes that 
they had been shattered in the Rhineland gave 
way as D-day approached to a sober conviction 
that the enemy had extricated much more than 
anticipated, and that there would be a real fight 

ahead. Aware that Wesel was a logical place to 
cross the Rhine the Nazis had, it was estimated, 
massed about 10 of their best remaining divisions 
within 20 miles of the area selected for Mont- 
gomery's assaults. However, they had been so 
reduced by attrition as to number less than 50,000 
combat effectives. Among them were two or 
three panzer divisions with perhaps 100 tanks and 
self-propelled guns, but these were reported to be 
near Duisburg, Isselburg, and Bocholt, more than 
10 miles away from the assault area. Brereton 
kept order of battle teams on duty 24 hours a day 
up to the last minute before VARSITY was 
launched, undoubtedly to prevent panzer units 
from surprising the airborne at Wesel as they had 
done at Arnhem. 

A maximum of 12,000 troops including two 
divisions and a brigade group were thought to 
be within a 10-mile radius of the airborne assault. 
If they concentrated in the Diersfordter Wald to 
oppose the amphibious landings the airborne, ar- 
riving in their rear and on their flanks, would cut 
them off. Since the German commanders re- 
putedly anticipated an airborne operation and 
had even rehearsed defense measures against one, 
it was more likely that they would place only a 
holding force in the wood and keep their main 
strength back of the Issel River to await develop- 
ments. In that case the airborne might be the 
ones encircled. 

Whatever the defense plan, it was evident that 
as little as five minutes after arrival the paratroops 
and glider men might be in combat with substantial 
German forces in well-prepared positions. The 
initial fighting might be hard. Thereafter the 
duration and severity of the battle would probably 
depend on the extent to which the Nazis could 
bring up reinforcements. To stand a chance of 
winning they would need to get half a dozen of 
their depleted divisions into the battle area. The 
Allies proposed to stop any such movement 
through the use of their superior airpower. 25 

In contrast to IvlARKET, which had no sys- 
tematic interdiction, VARSITY was the bene- 
ficiary of four interdictory~op > eTations. The original 
program asked for and obtained by Second Army 
.and FAAA was short, small, and efficient. It called 
for bombing a dozen vital communications cen- 
ters within 15 miles of the assault area* late on 

*Dinslaken, Anholt, Isselburg, Dingden, Brunen, Raes- 
feld, Bocholt, Borken, Dorsten, Gladbeck, Sterkrade, and a 
bridge near Sterkrade. 

168 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

D minus 1 or on D-day. If successful, this would 
block every good way by which German reinforce- 
ments could approach the battle area. On D-day 
armed reconnaissance patrols of 83 and 84 Groups 
and XXIX TAC would sweep the highways clean 
of military traffic west of Zwolle, Minister, Hamm, 
and Siegen and similar patrols of Eighth Air Force 
fighters would do so east of that line. 

To supplement this plan 21 Army Group pro- 
posed on 17 March that, since the Germans ob- 
viously would not be taken by surprise, they should 
be softened up by several days of preparatory 
bombing directed against barracks and military 
installations within a 30-mile radius of Wesel. 
Next day Second TAF, and the air forces con- 
cerned agreed to bomb 26 such targets north of the 
Lippe and 16 south of it at least twice every 24 
hours from D minus 3 through D minus 1, pre- 
ferably both by day and by night so that the enemy 
could get no rest. This program was aimed solely 
at German reserves. The assault areas were ex- 
cluded for fear of damage to zones or riverbanks. 
Most of the places already on the interdiction list 
were included, and the general effect was to rein- 
force the interdiction of the VARSITY area. It 
should, however, be noted that about half the tar- 
gets named were too far away to affect the airborne 
operation, important as they might be to later 
phases of 21 Army Group's offensive.* The same 
thing applies to the interdiction patrols flown by 
the fighters of Eighth Air Force. Their effect was 
to prevent creation of a second line of defense 
rather than reinforcement of the front. 

Even more remote from VARSITY, though not 
without influence on it, was a project proposed 
early in February by Lt. Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg, 
commander of the Ninth Air Force, to isolate all 
territory between the Rhine and an arc from 
Bremen along the Weser and Lahn rivers to 
Coblenz by bombing 18 bridges and viaducts, and 
then to paralyze the railroads in that area by de- 
stroying their rolling stock. The operation was 
approved, mainly, it appears, for its economic and 
general strategic value, and not as direct tactical 
assistance to VARSITY. 

It began on 21 February and by 21 March the 
only remaining serviceable bridges were three at 
the northern extremity of the arc; 20 out of 25 

*Tedder, Spaatz, and Vandenberg expressed the opinion on 
21 March that this operation should have been concentrated 
against reserves near the front, omitting several objectives deep 
in the rear. 

marshalling yards had been knocked out; and 
railroad traffic was at a standstill. This situation 
must have hampered Nazi efforts to build defenses 
along the Rhine, but, even if the way had been 
clear, they had almost no reserves east of the 
Weser. The industries of the Ruhr were strangled, 
as Vandenberg had intended they should be. The 
tactical value of the operation as far as VARSITY 
is concerned is uncertain but probably rather 
limited. 28 

One other air operation was a bombing of Wesel 
itself. Second Army asked for this very urgently 
on 17 March, and Bomber Command, RAF, was 
given the assignment of attacking the city on D 
minus 1 . Dempsey had decided to take Wesel by 
a commando assault at 2230 on the 23d and 
considered bombing essential to soften up the de- 
fenders. Since the flak batteries in Wesel were a 
threat to the troop carrier missions, this decision 
to hit the city hard and take it early would be of 
real assistance to VARSITY. 27 

Close support of the airborne troops was to be 
divided between artillery and air units in much 
the same way as flak suppression. A "cab rank" 
of rocket-firing Typhoon fighter-bombers dis- 
patched in relays of four every 15 minutes was to 
be maintained throughout the day over the Wesel 
area, ready to attack targets on requests received 
by radio from control parties with the troops. 
Requests for additional aircraft to fly close support 
were to be made through the control parties to an 
advanced control center of 83 Group. 

Artillery support was to play a role never before 
possible in an airborne operation. At 1000 hours 
on D-day XVIII Corps was to receive operational 
control of 104 guns for direct support of 6 Air- 
borne Division and 88 guns for direct support of 
the 17th Airborne plus a battery of heavy anti- 
aircraft guns for each division. An additional 176 
guns including 155-mm. pieces and 240-mm. 
howitzers were to be under corps control for gen- 
eral support. Since only 51 guns were to be flown 
in for the 17th Division and only 24 for 6 Air- 
borne, it is easy to see that the ability to call on 
ground artillery multiplied the firepower of the 
airborne force many times over. 28 


In contrast to the vestigial training for MAR- 
KET, preparation for VARSITY included a re- 
hearsal, a short period of intensive joint training, 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 169 

and, before that, a systematic training program 
designed to maintain proficiency. Particular credit 
for this last feature should probably be given to 
Brereton's insistence that his troop carriers be 
given adequate opportunity to practice troop 
carrier operations. In the face of ground pressure 
for more air supply SHAEF was persuaded to 
agree that between 17 December 1944 and 17 
January 1945 .only two troop carrier groups need 
be held on reserve for CATOR and later that only 
three would be reserved between 17 January and 
17 February. The other groups were slated to go 
into training, but emergency air supply and trans- 
port work during the Battle of the Bulge occupied 
them during the latter part of December. 

Early in January the battle subsided and training 
went into full swing. During that month and the 
next about two thirds of the aircraft dispatched by 
IX TCC were on training flights, and about 50,000 
hours of flying time were devoted to such flights. 
Most attention was given to formation flying, 
which took up some 21,000 hours. Glider towing 
occupied over 9,000 hours, and glider landing 
was stimulated by a requirement that every glider 
pilot make at least five landings a month. Naviga- 
tional and instrument flights were also stressed, 
and the large number of replacements, especially 
in the 52d Wing, necessitated a great deal of 
transition flying. Joint training with the airborne 
was necessarily on a low level, because the troops 
were in action or otherwise unavailable. Only 101 
paratroops jumped during the two-month period. 

Plans for three weeks of intensive combined 
troop carrier-airborne training in preparation for 
VARSITY were discussed and approved on 28 
February. Among other things they called for 
five jump exercises by regimental combat teams. 
Training was to end on 20 March, about 10 days 
before the operation, and was to culminate in a 

What was conceived as a well-rounded program 
was in fact seriously curtailed. When VARSITY 
was moved up to 24 March, it became necessary 
to terminate training on the 15th. According to 
troop carrier statements, all other cancellations 
and changes were made at the request of airborne 
representatives. The principal change was the 
reduction of the paratroop exercises to one of 135 
planes for the 507th PIR of the 17th Airborne and 
one of 154 aircraft for the 13th Division, which, 
incidentally, came after that unit had been diverted 

to CHOKER. One exercise was eliminated by the 
shortening of the program. The 17th Airborne 
cut out another because of staging difficulties, 
caused by the fact that its quarters near Chalons 
were over 50 miles away from all but one opera- 
tional troop carrier base. Many training flights for 
the division were staged from two small, unoccu- 
pied strips at Chambry and Malmaison, but this 
expedient would not do for large exercises. Also 
abandoned was a paratroop exercise by the 52d 
Wing with paratroops of 6 Airborne Division. 

No glider exercises were planned or attempted. 
At most of the fields, facilities for mass glider land- 
ings were so inadequate that General Williams had 
limited non-tactical glider lifts from any base to 
16 at a time. As for the rehearsal, the airborne 
declined to participate in it for fear of possible 
losses. It developed into a mere simulated exercise 
by a skeleton force to test troop carrier command 
arrangements and tactics. 

The American troop carriers did accomplish 
a great deal. During the period of joint train- 
ing they dropped 19,678 paratroops, and car- 
ried 26,666 glider troops. Almost all of this, 
however, was done by eight of IX TCC's 15 
groups*. The 50th Wing, already established in 
its French bases made 4,329 glider tows between 
1 and 18 March, and on the 9th its A-3 Officer 
boasted that the wing was giving the airborne 
three times as much practice as they had asked for. 
Three groups of the 53d Wing were also active, 
especially the 435th, which carried 15,642 glider 
troops, and the 438th, which dropped 6,649 para- 
troops between 10 and 15 March. The 436th also 
did its share. 

In the 52d Wing only one whole group, the 
313th, engaged in joint training, and it had to, 
because it was equipped with the new and un- 
familiar C-46. General Williams had wanted to 
have two paratroop regiments familiarized with the 
Commando and, if possible, to have it tested in an 
exercise. Busy until 10 March in moving to Achiet 
and in competing transition training on the new 
craft for its crews, the 313th Group then sent out 
125 planes over a five-day period and dropped 
3,246 men of the 513th PIR, its partner in the 
coming operation, to familiarize them with the 
characteristics of the C-46, especially its double 
jump-doors. The group did not attempt any mass 
drops. On 9 March a dozen planes of the 315th 

"Counting the pathfinders as a group. 

170 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

Group were sent from Spanhoe to Nether Avon to 
give jump training to paratroops of 6 Airborne. 
Before returning on the 15th they dropped 4,128 
men, and the divisional commander expressed 
himself as well satisfied. 

The other groups of the command did little or 
no joint training. The 434th Group was unable to 
participate because its base at Mourmelon was 
not ready for it to begin moving there until 10 
March. Why the others did not do so is not clear, 
although both movement to new bases and dis- 
tance from airborne units undoubtedly were in- 
hibiting factors. Besides the American units, 46 
Group, RAF, was also very short of training; 90 
percent of it was retained on transport work until 
D minus 2. 

Since these seemingly undertrained units did 
well in VARSITY, one may hazard the conclusion 
that joint training with airborne troops before an 
operation is not essential for experienced troop 
carrier units. What counted in VARSITY was 
the recovery of proficiency in troop carrier tactics 
and navigation by hard training during January 
and February in IX TCC and at regular intervals 
by relays in 46 Group. 29 

Special attention was given to the role glider 
pilots were to assume after landing. Their status 
as integral components of the troop carrier squad- 
rons was not changed. However, for combat pur- 
poses the glider pilots of each troop carrier group 
were organized into units equivalent to infantry 
companies. The wing glider officer and a small 
staff would act as a battalion headquarters exercis- 
ing tactical and administrative control of those 
companies during the ground phase. Training 
in infantry tactics was conducted by the 17th 
Airborne Division, and the glider pilots were 
provided with such infantry equipment as com- 
passes, canteens, entrenching tools, and light sleep- 
ing bags, the lack of which had been felt in 

It is significant that glider pilot employment was 
to be much as before. On landing they would assist 
in unloading, then proceed to the assembly area of 
the airborne unit carried, assemble there into their 
own tactical organizations and move as units to 
a specified wing assembly area. There after mus- 
tering them by squadrons the wing glider officer, 
working in conjunction with a previously delegated 
representative of the airborne commander, was to 
assign them to such tasks as guard duty, supply 

collection and, circumstances permitting, to pro- 
tection of usable gliders from vandalism. In spite 
of all the talk of using them to reinforce the infan- 
try, it was specified that the glider pilot units were 
not to be committed to battle except in extreme 
emergency, and then only in a defensive role. 
Furthermore, they were to be evacuated from the 
combat area on the highest possible priority. 
Evidently Airborne Army had not been convinced 
that trained pilots were as expendable as rifle- 
men. 30 

The rehearsal, appropriately called TOKEN, 
was postponed by unfavorable weather from 16 
March to 17 March. Command arrangements, 
communications, navigational aids and tactics were 
like those planned for VARSITY. However, each 
serial in the coming operation was represented by 
a single element, including the leader and assistant 
leader of the serial. The VARSITY route was 
used as far as Wavre, after which a similar course 
with modified headings was used to zones near 
Montlaucon and back on a reciprocal route. No 
troops were carried and no gliders released, except 
that two gliders with a combat control team were 
landed on Villeneuve-Vertus airfield to test the 
functioning of the team. 

While results were generally very good, an 
unexpected tail wind of 20 miles an hour upset 
the timing and caused some elements to reach their 
objectives as much as 12 minutes ahead of sched- 
ule. Reception of the M/F beacons along the 
route was poor in many cases, and the signals of 
the Ruhr Gee chain showed a tendency to fade. 
There were also failures in land-line communica- 
tions with the troop carrier forces in England. The 
signal lines were speedily repaired, since even a 
brief loss of contact with 38 Group during the 
actual operation could have been serious. Another 
significant result of the rehearsal was a decision 
by General Williams that after passing the com- 
mand departure point at Wavre the troop carrier 
serials would adhere to indicated air speeds instead 
of attempting to reach each checkpoint at a 
scheduled time. This change was intended to 
prevent the confusion which might result if some 
groups interfered with others by excessive slowing 
or speeding in an effort to meet their schedule. 31 

Briefing and Security Measures 

Because VARSITY was a set piece scheduled 
well in advance, there was plenty of time to pre- 

Varsity— Airborne Assault Across Rhine Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 171 

pare orders and conduct briefings. On 16 March, 
D minus 8, IX TCC issued its field order. In 
accordance with instructions in a recent letter from 
Airborne Army, this set briefing times as late as 
possible. Wing commanders were to be briefed 
on D minus 3, group and squadron commanders 
and key personnel on D minus 2, and combat 
crews not until D minus 1 . However, the practical 
advantages of obtaining more time to prepare out- 
weighed these adjurations. Indications are that 
the wing commanders all had a good working 
knowledge of the operation many days before the 
16th. The American wings briefed the com- 
manders and key personnel of their groups and 
squadrons on D minus 5 and D minus 4; 38 
Group, RAF, had held a similar briefing at Mark's 
Hall on 18 September, D minus 6. A majority of 
the combat crew briefings were held on D minus 1, 
but in many cases, especially where space limita- 
tions prevented a group from briefing all its 
squadrons at once, crew briefings had begun on 
the 22d. 

The briefings, carefully prepared and embody- 
ing the accumulated experience of previous opera- 
tions, were generally held to be excellent. The 
extent and quality of the intelligence provided was 
a source of surprise and satisfaction to the re- 
cipients. All pilots and glider pilots got maps of 
the route on scales of 1:500,000 and 1:250,000 
and a map of the Wesel-Diersfordt area on a scale 
of 1 : 1 00,000. Maps and defense overprints of the 
DZ-LZ area on a scale of 1:25,000 were dis- 
tributed for briefing in quantities of 20 or more for 
each group and with them numerous overlays of 
the area on the same scale showing the DZ's and 
LZ's, landmarks and obstructions, known flak 
positions, and the German order of battle. Photo- 
graphic cover, though not complete, was very 
good. Every group got two sets of lithographed 
mosaics of the DZ-LZ area on a scale of 1:8,000 
and one run-in mosaic on a scale of 1:33,000. 
Enlarged vertical photographs of the various zones 
were also distributed and in such quantity that 
every glider pilot received a picture of his landing 
zone blown up to page size. Each group was given 
a set of oblique photographs of the run-in strip and 
several of oblique panoramas of the DZ-LZ area. 32 

The security precautions taken| for VARSITY 
were intended to conceal the composition of the 
attacking force and the exact time and place of 
the operation. The fact that an assault would soon 

be made across the Rhine north of the Ruhr was 
clear to any skilled observer of the military situa- 
tion and was made even more obvious by Mont- 
gomery's massive preparations and by reports in 
the newspapers. 

Particular pains were taken to conceal changes 
in radio traffic from which the enemy might de- 
duce what was brewing. The movement of the 
airborne divisions to the airfields was done as 
unobtrusively as possible with identification marks 
removed from uniforms and equipment. The 
ground echelons of those divisions were disguised 
as Communications Zone troops during their move 
up to the front. At the airfields the precautions 
taken were like those before the invasion of Nor- 
mandy, though not quite as stringent. On the 
arrival of the troops, traffic in and out of the bases 
was restricted and the troops were sealed in their 
bivouac areas. Briefed troop carrier personnel 
were segregated from those unbriefed, telephone 
service was curtailed and calls monitored, and out- 
going mail was stored in special bags until after 
the operation. 33 

Auxiliary Air Operations 

By rare good fortune VARSITY had favorable 
weather, not only for its grand finale but also for 
the three days of preparatory air operations. The 
opportunity was used to the full. On 21 and 22 
March 1,744 Fortresses and Liberators of the 
Eighth Air Force, escorted by 752 fighters, 
dumped about 4,000 tons of bombs on the 5 
jet bases and 10 other airfields which they were 
to put out of action. Almost all the runways at- 
tacked were thoroughly cratered. Approximately 
5 bombers and 11 fighters were lost, but reports 
indicated that at least 62 enemy fighters had been 
destroyed, most of them on the ground. 

On D-day 1,452 B-17's and B-24's escorted by 
95 fighters dropped slightly over 4,000 tons more. 
In the morning they hit the jet fields again, and 
during the morning and afternoon they hammered 
a dozen additional bases, mostly night-fighter 
fields. Photographs showed that all the targets 
were badly cratered and apparently out of opera- 
tion. Somehow the Germans did put jet fighters in 
the air on D-day, but they were a mere handful 
of survivors flying not as units but as individuals. 
The price of the D-day attacks on airfields was 

172 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

eight bombers all of which so far as is known, fell 
victim to flak, not to the Luftwaffe. 3 * 

Interdiction and harassing operations by the 
Allied air forces between first light on D minus 3 
and dawn on D-day were monumental in size and 
complexity. In 3,471 effective bomber sorties 
some 8,500 tons of bombs were dropped against 
communications targets. Barracks and other mili- 
tary installations received some 6,600 tons of ex- 
plosive, delivered by 2,090 bombers. Most notable 
of these missions against the German ground 
forces was the accurate dropping of 1,090 tons of 
bombs about 2230 on D minus 1 by 195 Lancas- 
ter and 23 Mosquitoes of Bomber Command, 
RAF on Nazi positions on the northwest side of 
WeseL only 1,500 yards ahead of British com- 
mando troops poised for assault. In addition to 
'specific bomber missions, fighter bombers swept 
on armed reconnaissance over the railroads and 
highways, the pilots claimed a total of 215 rail 
cuts, 80 locomotives, 2,383 railroad cars, and 
318 other vehicles. 31 "' 

Certain bombing missions on D-day were pri- 
marily interdictory. In a morning attack on the 
edge of the Ruhr 506 Halifaxes and Lancasters of 
RAF Bomber Command dropped over 1,900 tons 
of bombs on marshalling yards at Sterkrade, troops 
near Gladbeck and industrial plants near Bottrop 
and Dortmund, in an operation which was at once 
diversionary, strategic, and interdictory. That 
afternoon 317 medium bombers of IX Bombard- 
ment Division were sent on a turnaround mission 
with the dual purpose of finishing off bridges at 
Colbe, Pracht, and Vlotho under the Vandenberg 
plan,* and hitting Borken, Bocholt, and Dorsten, 
these latter being among the 12 targets originally 
selected for interdiction on behalf of VARSITY. 
The bridges were hit and smashed by 173 of the 
202 bombers dispatched against them. For some 
reason Borken and Bocholt were not attacked, 
but Dorsten and secondary targets at Stadtlohn, 
Aalten, and Dulmen were severely damaged by 
1 20 tons of bombs dropped by 100 planes between 
1500 and 1531. 

Brunen and Raesfeld, two more of the original 
12 interdiction targets, were also hit on the 24th 
by 66 medium bombers of Second TAF with 98 
tons of bombs. Troop concentrations in Brunen, 
which was only, five miles east of. the Diersfordter 

Wald, would have been in a particularly favorable 
position for a counterattack against the airborne. 

The bombing of flak positions prior to the ar- 
rival of the VARSITY missions was greatly handi- 
capped by smoke and haze. Although IX Bom- 
bardment Division dispatched 433 medium and 
light bombers (plus 11 carrying WINDOW) for 
that purpose, only 285 bombed their primary ob- 
jectives, and most of them had to rely on radar 
(Oboe) in making their attacks. Of the rest, 8 
bombed other gun positions, 73 struck at miscel- 
laneous targets, and 67 made no attack. In all, 
799 tons of fragmentation and 13 tons of general 
purpose bombs were dropped on that mission be- 
tween 0744 and 0904.* About the same time 71 
medium bombers of 2 Group, RAF, were drop- 
ping 109 tons of bombs on four other antiaircraft 
positions. They, too, were hampered by low visi- 
bility but claimed hits on two of their objectives. 30 

On D-day escort and cover west of the Rhine 
were provided for the airborne missions by 213 
planes of 11 Group, RAF, and by about 330 
American fighters under IX Tactical Air Com- 
mand, f Since in most areas relays of fighters 
were used to maintain protection throughout the 
operation, no more than a dozen American fighter 
squadrons and half a dozen from the RAF were 
guarding the route at any one time. To avoid 
boundary problems, the RAF fighters kept their 
patrols on the north side of the troop carrier lanes 
between Wavre and the Rhine, while the Ameri- 
cans stayed on the south side. 

East of the Rhine, 83 and 84 Groups had five 
squadrons on patrol after dawn at altitudes of 
5,000 and 12,000 feet over the strip bounded by 
Wesel, Arnhem, Winterswijk, and Dorsten. They 
added two more at 0930 and kept seven on the 
watch until after 1300. The Spitfire squadrons 

which formed the bulk of this force had to be re- 

_ — / 

placed at one-hour/intervals because of their 
limited fuel capacity.ff Additional fighter cover 
south of Wesel was provided by XXIX TAC, 
which had one fighter squadron on duty from 0630 

*See above, p. 168. 

*The figures given above are taken from the history of the 
bombardment division. Most reports rely on its operations 
summary, which states that 327 planes dropped 695 tons of 
bombs on flak positions. 

tBoth IX TCC and FAAA report that 676 American fighters 
were used as escort and cover for the troop carriers, but that 
figure appears to include 273 sorties by XIX TAC in the Mainz- 
Mannheim area more than 150 miles south of the VARSITY 

tfln escort, cover, and fighter sweeps 83 and 84 Groups made 
some 900 fighter sorties that day. 

Varsity— Airborne Assault Across Rhine Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 173 

to 1000 and three during the airborne assault for 
a total of 72 sorties. 

All the escort and cover sorties were uneventful. 
Only a few German planes were seen, and all kept 
their distance. 37 

During the airborne assault, flak positions in 
the vicinity of the drop and landing areas were 
attacked by fighter-bombers of Second TAF. 
Seventeen British planes were lost in this anti-flak 

Working south of Wesel along the exit route 
from the southern zones and occasionally attacking 
guns in the assault area itself was the 406th 
Fighter Group from XXIX TAC. This group 
made 48 sorties in relays of 12,* and lost 3 planes 
but claimed hits on 36 gun positions. As in MAR- 
KET the task of hunting out mobile flak batteries 
was difficult and dangerous; low-flying decoys had 
to coax the gunners into revealing their position. 38 

Besides protecting the troop carriers with air 
cover and anti-flak patrols. Second TAF provided 
all air support in the battle waged by the airborne 
troops. Its light bombers and fighter bombers made 
412 sorties against prearranged targets, including 
three German headquarters. Operating partly from 
"cab rank" and partly on special request, 254 
rocket-firing Typhoons gave close support. Mean- 
while, fighters prowling north and east of the as- 
sault area flew 212 sorties on armed reconnais- 
sence. Another 180 planes made regular recon- 
naissance flights. 39 

East of Minister, the Eighth Air Force made 
1,158 sorties during the day in fighter sweeps 
against air and ground targets. Its pilots inter- 
cepted a formation of 20 German fighters about 
noon and another of 30 about 1530, and claimed 
to have destroyed 53 enemy aircraft in combat. 
The intercepted formations, which were both 
headed west, probably represented feeble efforts 
at air action against VARSITY. Some of the 
sweeps were directed against ground transportation 
and reportedly destroyed 8 locomotives and 132 
other vehicles. 40 

*Widely accepted reports that 121 American fighters flew 
anti-flak sorties for VARSITY have a basis in Ninth Air Force 
totals, which probably lumped some other missions under that 
heading (Hq. 9th AF, Air Summary of Operation, 24 Mar 
45, in 533.332). 

The Final Decision and 
The Ground Assault 

The decision on whether or not VARSITY 
would be launched on schedule was made by Bre- 
reton and Coningham at 1600 on 23 March. This 
time there was no question of postponement. The 
meteorologists predicted fine weather for the next 
day. There would be rather thick haze in the 
Wesel area during the early morning, but this 
would clear before the troop carriers' approach, 
giving them visibility of at least two miles there 
and over four miles elsewhere^ Surface winds 
would blow at 10 to 15 miles an hour at the bases 
and about 10 miles an hour on the drop and land- 
ing zones. Accordingly the commanders directed 
that VARSITY proceed as scheduled with P-hour, 
the moment of the first drops, set at 1000A on 
24 March. ("A" Time was Greenwich Mean Time 
plus one hour.) The decision was reaffirmed at 
0600 on the 24th after receipt of another forecast 
issued at 0400. The predictions closely followed 
those of the previous evening. VARSITY could 
go as planned. 41 

Presumably General Montgomery had author- 
ized the launching of PLUNDER, his amphibious 
assault, the moment he had the air commanders' 
assent to VARSITY. He has written that he gave 
the orders at 1530 on the 23d. The operation went 
with the textbook precision that was his trademark. 
At 2100, exactly as scheduled, the first wave of 
assault boats pushed out into the Rhine, carrying 
the first elements of four battalions of 51 Division. 
Their objective was Rees, 12 miles downstream 
from Wesel. At 2200 the Commando Brigade be- 
gan its crossing about two miles west of Wesel. 
At 0200 a crossing in the Xanten area midway 
between Wesel and Rees was begun by four bat- 
talions of 15 Division. The 9th Army assault south 
of the Lippe also began at 0200. All these cross- 
ings were completely successful. Everywhere the 
opposite bank proved thinly held, initial resistance 
was feeble, and the initial artillery reaction slight. 

Fierce fighting did develop at some points. 
German paratroops facing the northern prong of 
the assault held Rees throughout D-day and kept 
51 Division pinned close to the river. With artil- 
lery and mortars still in positions from which they 
could rake the river in that sector, the Nazis pre- 
vented any T5ridge.building there and made ferry 
operations difficult. No help would reach the air- 

174 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

borne from 51 Division, but it was engaging its 
share of the German defense force. The commando 
brigade also had its hands full. Despite the severe 
pounding received from Bomber Command, the 
garrison of Wesel clung stubbornly to portions of 
the town throughout the day. However, in the 
center 15 Division did well and by 1000 hours on 
D-day was in a position to capitalize on the air- 
borne assault which was to strike the hilltop posi- 
tions ahead of it. 42 

The Lift and Initial Operations 
of the British Airborne Division 

The first mission in VARSITY to get under way 
was that of the 61st, 315th, and 316th Troop 
Carrier Groups carrying the paratroop echelon of 
6 Airborne Division from Chipping Ongar, Bore- 
ham and Wethersfield. They were favored with 
almost perfect weather, clear skies and excellent 
visibility. Emplaning at Boreham was briefly 
delayed while the British finished their inevitable 
tea, and a flurry of excitement was produced at 
Chipping Ongar by a buzz-bomb which passed 
overhead and exploded near the base. However, 
take-offs went off about on schedule with the first 
plane in the air at 0709 and the last shortly after 
0740. Of 243 aircraft slated to go, only one failed 
to depart and that because no load had been pro- 
vided for it. Aboard the rest were close to 3,900 
troops and 137 tons of supplies. 

As usual the planes assembled into elements, 
the elements into flights, and the flights into serials, 
which then swung over their bases and headed for 
the departure point at Hawkinge. They reached 
there approximately on schedule after sighting 
more robot missiles en route, missiles immune 
to antiaircraft fire because they were in the troop 
carrier lane. 

From England to the Rhine everything went 
smoothly. No navigational problems arose. The 
213 planes of RAF Fighter Command guarding 
that part of the route had little to do, for not one 
enemy aircraft came within sight of the mission 
that day. The only flaw was an error in timing 
which caused the various serials to arrive from 
6 to 10 minutes ahead of schedule. The crews 
were aware of their true position and the red warn- 
ing lights flashed as usual four minutes before 
the actual arrival time. However, this premature 
arrival did cut out nearly a third of the artillery 

bombardment of German flak batteries which had 
been scheduled to last from 0930 to 1000 hours. 

Near the Rhine an unexpected navigational diffi- 
culty arose. Montgomery had shielded his am- 
phibious operations with a huge smoke screen 
extending for nearly 50 miles along the Rhine. 
Although the generators were turned off early on 
D-day after reconnaissance pilots reported that 
unfavorable flying conditions were developing, the 
smoke did not have time to clear. Borne on the 
southeast wind it covered the visual aids at Last 
Lap so they could be seen only from directly over- 
head and combined with local haze to reduce 
visibility between the river and the drop zones 
to one mile or even less. Fortunately the distance 
was short, less than three miles to one zone, five 
miles to the other; landmarks on the run-in were 
plentiful and not such as to be readily obscured 
by haze; and good Gee fixes were available in case 
of need. In addition some pilots were helped by 
the visual aids set out on the zones by the pathfind- 
ers from the lead serials. At any rate both supplies 
and troops were dropped with great accuracy. 

Of the first three serials all reached the zone 
except two which had to turn back for mechanical 
reasons. At 0951 the rest, 80 planes of the 61st 
Group and 39 of the 316th began their drop of 
1 ,920 men of 3 Parachute Brigade on or near DZ 
A, an irregular area about Wi miles in diameter 
on the west side of the panhandle which formed 
the northern end of the Diersfordter Wald. The 
British troops showed a tendency to become en- 
tangled, with the result that some jumped late, 
others required a second pass, and at least 13 were 
brought back. Some formations, probably in the 
rear, came in much too high and dropped their 
troops from heights up to 1,150 feet. Until after 
the drop, flak was insignificant, but thereafter it 
thickened and brought down three aircraft and 
damaged about 30. 

The next three serials had a much harder time. 
Their objective was DZ B, an irregular area IV2 
miles long on the east side of the wood about two 
miles beyond DZ A. The Nazis in the wood put 
up surprisingly little fire. All the planes, 40 from 
the 316th Group and 81 from the 315th, are be- 
lieved to have reached the zone and dropped at 
least some of their troops, although at least two 
aircraft were hit and burning before the jump be- 
gan. The lead formation reached the zone at 1003, 
and during the next quarter-hour 1,917 men of 

176 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

5 Parachute Brigade were dropped from altitudes 
between 700 and 1,000 feet. The troops testified 
that the pilots flew straight and true and gave them 
an accurate and generally excellent jump. Only 
seven soldiers were returned, all because of fouled 

As the formations swung left onto a homeward 
course after leaving the zone, sudden blasts of 
intense and accurate light flak swept the serials. 
Of the 121 planes which had reached DZ B, 10 
were shot down east of the Rhine, and 7 others 
crash-landed in friendly territory in such condition 
that only one or two of them were ever repaired. 
An additional 70 were damaged, most of them 
severely enough to make them temporarily non- 
operational. Troop carrier casualties amounted to 
only 6 dead, 20 missing, and 15 wounded or in- 
jured. However, many crews came down just 
behind the front; others were rescued by the rapid 
Allied advance after a brief term as prisoners of 

The high ratio of aircraft losses deserves sober 
consideration. The losses were inflicted in a 
comparatively small area from which flak had 
supposedly been eradicated by the systematic use 
of overwhelmingly superior airpower. As Air- 
borne Army analysts noted, the batteries doing the 
bulk of the damage were too far east to be affected 
by the artillery barrage. Some may well have been 
mobile pieces brought in at the last minute in 
spite of the elaborate interdiction program. Others 
may have eluded observation or been unsuccess- 
fully attacked. Anyway, there they were, painful 
proof that flak suppression is a difficult and uncer- 
tain business. 

The 61st Group returned to Abbeville-Drucat, 
the first plane landing at 1125. Plans to have the 
315th and 316th Groups land in France had been 
abandoned on 22 March because their new bases 
there were not ready, so they had to make the 
long flight back to their home fields, Spanhoe and 
Cottesmore, at which most of their members ar- 
rived about 1300. 43 

At 1021, as soon as the British paratroops had 
finished jumping, the glider echelon of 6 Airborne 
Division was to arrive, borne by 440 gliders of 38 
and 46 Groups. Of these, 370 were to carry 
Divisional Headquarters and 6 Airlanding Brigade 
to four landing zones, LZ's O, R, and U, bunched 
within a one-mile radius around Hamminkeln, 
and LZ P, an irregularly shaped area about \V% 

miles long from north to south which was just west 
of those zones and just south of DZ B. The other 
70 gliders were to land reinforcements for the 
paratroops on DZ's A and B. Actually, the out- 
lines of the zones had little significance, because 
the commanders of 38 Group and 6 Airborne 
Division had decided on the advice of the com- 
mander of the glider pilot regiment to make many 
small, separate, precision landings as close as pos- 
sible to tactical objectives instead of the massed 
landings employed hitherto. Speed was to be 
sought at the expense of concentration. Although 
in a sense this meant that coup de main procedure 
would be generally used, two special coup de main 
parties were to land on the eastern edges of LZ's 
O and U to seize bridges over the Issel. 

The first tug and glider took off at 0600. This 
early start, over an hour ahead of the paratroop 
aircraft, was necessary because it took about an 
hour to get a batch of 60 gliders into the air and 
more time still to haul them up to the prescribed 
altitude. Only one of the tugs failed to take off. 
However, the heavy Horsas and Hamilcars were 
very apt to abort, and in this case, despite the 
superlatively good weather, 35 broke loose or had 
to be released prematurely. Two of them ditched 
in the Channel, but all aboard were speedily 

Two hostile planes were sighted, but none at- 
tacked and the high-flying British column suffered 
little from flak. It lost only seven planes and had 
32 damaged. At least 402 of the gliders were 
successfully released in the combat area. Haze, 
smoke and dust from the artillery and air bom- 
bardments reduced visibility to between 1,000 
and 3,000 yards but helped to some extent to 
shield the fliers. Releases began about 10 minutes 
early and ranged from the planned height of 2,500 
feet to 3,500 feet. So accurate were the releases 
that about 90 percent of the gliders landed on or 
very near their zones, many of them within 100 
yards of their objectives. Only half a dozen missed 
the landing area by more than a mile, and those 
landed to the south in the territory of the Ameri^ 
can airborne. 

The Horsas and Hamilcars fared much worse 
than their tugs. About 10 of them were shot down 
and 284 were damaged by flak. The high releases 
gave German gunners plenty of time to get their 
sights on the gliders, and they made the most of it. 
About half of the gliders were damaged in land- 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 177 

ing, which is not surprising considering the brittle 
nature of the Horsa, the inexperience of many of 
the pilots, and the difficulties of landing through 
smoke and under severe fire. 

Ground resistance in many parts of the landing 
area was at first vigorous and effective. Artillery 
and incendiary bullets destroyed 32 gliders and the 
occupants of 38 others were so pinned down by 
German gunners that they could not unload. That 
unloading went as well as it did was attributed to 
the fact that most of the gliders were Mark II 
Horsas which had hinged noses as well as de- 
tachable tails. Only 88 gliders, less than a quarter 
of those reaching the battle area came through 
unscathed. As for their pilots, 38 were killed, 
37 were wounded, and 135 were missing, a 
casualty rate of 28 percent. 

The glider contingent would have had a much 
harder time had it not been for the presence of 
British paratroops on DZ's A and B and of 
American paratroops, dropped by mistake, on 
zones west of Hamminkeln. Thus it cannot be said 
that the British operations in VARSITY provide a 
good precedent for glider landings on zones not 
previously occupied by paratroops. However, 
the gliders did bring into the assault area a force 
of 3,383 airborne troops with 271 jeeps, 275 
trailers, 66 guns, ranging in size from 6-pounders 
to 25-pounders, and a wealth of other equipment 
including trucks and bulldozers. 

Perhaps the most successful of the three British 
airborne brigades was that on DZ A. It cleared the 
zone within an hour of its drop and by 1400 had 
occupied all objectives in its sector, which was 
on the northwest side of the Diersfordter Wald. 
About 1500 a battalion of 15 Division pushed up 
the hill and entered the paratroop positions. East 
of the wood the troops on DZ B suffered about 
300 casualties in hard fighting around their drop 
zone and were not able to take their assigned place 
on the north flank of the division until about 1530. 

The two coup de main parties were landed with 
great accuracy, and each speedily took the bridge 
assigned to it. The resistance encountered by the 
other glider troops varied tremendously from 
place to place. However, by nightfall all organized 
resistance in the British sector from the western 
edge of the woods to the Issel had been broken, 
six bridges across the river had been seized intact, 
and over 600 prisoners had been taken. The cost 
to 6 Airborne was 347 dead, 731 wounded, and 

319 missing, but many of those missing soon re- 
joined their units. 44 

The Lift and Initial Operations of 
the American Paratroops 

The lift of the American troops began at 0725 
on the 24th when a plane of the pathfinder group, 
which was to fly the lead serial, took off from 
Chartres with the group commander, Colonel 
Crouch, as pilot and Col. Edson D. Raff, com- 
mander of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 
as a passenger. Raff had commanded the para- 
troops who made the first American combat jump 
outside Oran during the invasion of North Africa. 
Crouch had led the pathfinders in missions to 
Italy, Southern France, Normandy, and Holland. 
Now, appropriately enough, the two men held the 
place of honor in the last major airborne operation 
of the war. 

The 46 planes in Crouch's serial flashed into the 
air in less than five minutes, and assembled so 
rapidly that they swept over the field in formation 
on their way to the command assembly point only 
10 minutes after the last aircraft left the ground. 
From Prosnes, Mourmelon, and Achiet six other 
paratroop serials proceeded to Wavre to take their 
positions behind the serial from Chartres. 

Over northern France and the Low Countries 
the sky was clear and visibility unlimited. At 
Achiet, which had only one usable runway, gusts 
of wind, blowing at 10 to 15 miles an hour across 
the runway caused one C-46 to swerve and crash 
on take-off. Only deft handling kept others from 
a similar fate. Not one of the C-47's in the para- 
troop formations failed to take off or had to turn 
back. However, engine trouble and a flat tire 
kept two C-46's from taking off, and another with 
engine trouble had to return after take-off. Except 
for three men injured in the crash, all troops in the 
aborting planes were transferred to four substitute 
aircraft, which were standing by, and flew after 
the rest. The last left Achiet about 0930, half an 
hour behind schedule. 

The C-46 serials from Achiet were scheduled to 
reach Wavre at 0934 and 0938. In order to take 
their place in the right-hand lane, they would have 
to cross the path of the leading American glider 
serial, which was to enter the center stream from 
their right at 0936. The remedy prescribed for 
this awkward situation was to have the C-46's fly 

178 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

in the left lane, then temporarily free of British 
traffic, until their greater speed put them well ahead 
of the gliders, after which they would shift to the 
right-hand lane. Ingenious as it was, the arrange- 
ment left too little margin for error, considering 
that two very different types of formation, employ- 
ing different types of planes, were to converge on 
the Wavre area from widely separate starting 

What happened was that, as the C-46 pilots ap- 
proached Wavre, they beheld the glider column 
crossing directly in front of them. The lead serial 
turned left, outpaced the gliders, and swung around 
them into its assigned lane, but it had had to make 
a considerable detour to do so. The second climbed 
to 2,000 feet and went over the gliders without 
changing course. Troop carrier records barely 
mention the incident and indicate pretty clearly 
that the Achiet serials quickly recovered their 
proper course and altitude. However, the com- 
mander of the paratroops aboard them, the 513th 
PIR, believed that the first serial at least never 
did get fully reoriented and that the subsequent 
inaccurate drop of his men was a result of this 
episode. 45 

The first four paratroop serials, a force of 181 
C-47's, were to carry 2,479 troops of the 507th 
PIR and its teammate, the 464th Parachute Field 
Artillery Battalion, to DZ W. The drop zone was 
an egg-shaped area of fields and bottom land with 
a main axis about 2,000 yards long parallel to the 
direction of approach and with a maximum width 
of 1,500 yards. It nestled against the south side 
of the Diersfordter Wald east of the hamlet of 
Fliiren and 2V2 miles northwest of Wesel. To reach 
it the troop carriers would cross the Rhine at a 
sharp bend in the river near Xanten and from 
there would fly east-northeast for about three miles 
to the zone. During most of the run-in they would 
have on their right a natural pointer, the Alter 
Rhein, a long, straight, narrow lake in an old 
riverbed parallel to their course. Shortly before 
reaching the zone the fliers would pass for a few 
hundred yards over a hook of woodland projecting 
from the southwest corner of the Diersfordter 
Wald. 46 

Given even passable visibility the drop was al- 
most bound to be accurate, but DZ W lay under 
a pall of smoke blown by the southeast wind from 
the bombed ruins of Wesel and from Second Army 
smoke pots along the river, only a mile south of the 

run-in. The fliers could glimpse colored panels 
at Last Lap and see the Rhine. Beyond the river 
the ground was invisible except through an occas- 
sional rift in the smoke. 

Enemy action had little or no effect on the drop. 
Since the Germans had already been driven from 
the open land near the river, ground fire was 
negligible west of the woods. The first two serials 
found it everywhere very slight, probably because 
they took the enemy by surprise. They lost only 
one plane, hit on its homeward turn, and had five 
or six damaged. The other two serials bound for 
DZ W received more fire, mostly from small arms, 
but, although 29 planes were hit not one was shot 
down. There was no air opposition although one 
or two hostile planes were seen on the way back. 47 

The lead serial, which carried the 1st Battalion, 
lost its way in the smoke, and at about 0950* its 
first three flights dropped Raff and 493 men on 
the western edge of the Diersfordter Wald more 
than two miles northwest of DZ W. This placed 
them in the sector allotted to the 513th PIR and 
a little way northeast of the fortress known as 
Schloss Diersfordt, a major objective, the taking 
of which had been delegated to the 3d Battalion 
of the 507th. The rear elements of the serial held 
closer to course and dropped 200 men of the 1st 
Battalion somewhat to the south of the castle. 

Instead of attempting a trek to the drop zone, 
both groups went into action on the spot. Raff's 
men drove confused and wavering German troops 
out of good positions in the nearby woods, killing 
some 55, taking over 300 prisoners, and capturing 
a battery of 150-mm. howitzers. Then they 
marched south to attack the castle where at about 
1100 they found the rest of the battalion already 
engaging the German occupants. 

The second and third serials, both flown by the 
438th Group, approached DZ W accurately in 
good formation and placed the 2d and 3d Bat- 
talions of the 507th squarely on the zone. The 2d 
Battalion came down under heavy fire from Ger- 
man troops concentrated in the woods north and 
west of it. Nevertheless, the paratroops assembled 
quickly into platoons and companies, moved 
against the enemy strongpoints, and by 1100 had 
taken them in a series of short, fierce actions. 
Their biggest prize was a battery of 81 -mm. mor- 
tars which had been zeroed in on the zone. The 

*Troop carrier and airborne sources give times ranging from 
0948 to 0957, but this is considered most likely. (Hist 1st TC 
PfdrSq, Mar 45.) 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 179 

3d Battalion also had to conduct a fighting assem- 
bly, in the course of which it took about 150 
prisoners. However, within 45 minutes after its 
jump 75 percent of the battalion had been con- 
centrated in readiness to move to Schloss Diers- 
fordt. Altogether, the regiment is reported to have 
had 90 percent of its personnel assembled within 
an hour and a half after its jump. Under the cir- 
cumstances this indicates a high degree of concen- 
tration in all three drops as well as excellent per- 
formance by the troops. 

The fourth serial, which reached the zone about 
1005*, was fairly accurate, but its drop of the 
464th Field Artillery Battalion was somewhat 
dispersed. Elements of the battalion were dropped 
as much as 1,500 yards northwest of the DZ. 
Under brisk fire from the woods as they hit the 
ground, the artillerymen hastily set up three 50- 
cal. machine guns and three howitzers and laid 
direct fire on the most troublesome enemy posi- 
tions. After the fighting around them died down, 
they moved according to plan to the northeast end 
of the zone and by 1300 hours had 9 of their 
12 howitzers set up there. The other 3 had 
been damaged in landing because the parachutes 
did not open properly. The battalion only fired 
50 rounds that day, most of them during the 
afternoon in a difficult but successful duel with an 
88-mm. gun, two 75's, and a mortar located 
around a house which the 464th had intended to 
use as its command post. Maj. Gen. William M. 
Miley, the divisional commander, jumped with 
the artillery, but was little more than an observer 
during the initial stages of the battle. High-level 
coordination of the innumerable small-unit actions 
was neither possible nor necessary. 

During the afternoon German morale weak- 
ened, and resistance in the 507th's sector almost 
vanished. The last big fight was at the castle. The 
3d Battalion arrived there at 1200 after a rapid 
march through the woods, relieved the 1st Bat- 
talion, excepting Company A, which was already 
deployed, and launched an attack. Within an hour 
they had taken all the fortress but an isolated 
turret, bagging some 500 prisoners and five 
medium tanks. f Evidently German hope and 
fighting spirit were vanishing together. 

"Again there is disagreement on the time. 

tThe paratroops knocked out one tank with a Gammon 
grenade and two with recoilless 57-mm. guns. The other two 
were destroyed by the fire of heavy artillery from across the 

Within 3Vi hours after its jump the 507th had 
taken all its assigned objectives, and it appears 
to have done so in the face of numerically superior 
forces. It captured that day approximately 1,000 
prisoners* belonging to three regiments of the 
German 84th Division, an artillery regiment, a 
GHQ battalion and an antiaircraft battery. 

What remained to be done was to link up with 
the ground forces and other airborne units. Con- 
tact with elements of the 194th Glider Infantry 
east of DZ W was achieved early in the afternoon. 
At 1300 Company D met advance elements of 
15 Division, and Company F reported contact with 
that division at 1434. At 1803 the paratroops 
joined forces with the British airborne on the 
northern boundary of their sector, and at 0200 
next morning a patrol to the southeast reached 
the British troops in the Wesel area. In contact 
with friendly forces on all sides the 507th had 
nothing more to do in its sector except a little 
mopping up. 48 

The last three of the seven serials carrying 
American paratroops were to bring the 513th 
Parachute Infantry Regiment and the 466th Para- 
chute Field Artillery Battalion to DZ X. This 
zone was a rough quadrangle, some 2,500 yards 
long from east to west and about 1,000 yards 
wide, consisting mostly of small, flat fields. The 
double-track railway to Wesel ran just inside its 
western boundary, making an excellent check- 
point for the drop. DZ X was set against the east 
side of the Diersfordter Wald about VA miles east- 
northeast of DZ W and 2Vi miles north-northwest 
of Wesel. For more than a mile before reaching 
the zone the troop carrier formations would have 
to fly over the central portion of the wood. 

The whole air echelon of the 513th PIR, 2,071 
men with 64 tons of supplies and equipment, had 
been lifted from Achiet by 72 C-46's of the 313th 
Group, 35 in the lead serial, 34 in the second and 
3 substitutes flying many miles behind them. Be- 
cause of the speed of the C-46 the verbal warning 
was given 15 minutes before the jump instead of 
20, and the red light 3 instead of 4 minutes in 
advance. There was much jostling within the 
serials, probably because the 313th Group had 
had insufficient opportunity to fly their new planes 
in large formations. One jam which occurred as 
they approached the Rhine may have played its 

*There are very large discrepancies in the POW figures re- 
ported by the airborne troops. The captives had come in so 
rapidly that it was hard to keep track of them. 

180 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

part in throwing them off course. The pilots all 
appear to have believed that they crossed the 
river at the proper point, but their crossing place 
was not particularly distinctive, and it is perhaps 
significant that only one crew reported seeing the 
panels set out near the west bank to mark it. East 
of the Rhine the visibility was about half a mile, 
very bad, though a little better than that on the 
approaches to DZ W. 

Moderate and rather inaccurate light flak and 
small-arms fire met the two serials as they passed 
over the wood. Several planes, including the lead 
ship, flown by Lt. Col. William L. Filer, com- 
mander of the 3 1 3th, burst into flames, but all were 
able to continue. Although no one bailed out or 
turned back the plight of the leader may have 
affected the accuracy of the drop. 

At 1008 the first serial of the 313th reached 
what appeared to be the drop zone. As they let 
down to make their drop they were raked by in- 
tense and accurate light flak and small-arms fire 
from positions on their left and received some 
heavier flak from the right. Suddenly the sky 
seemed full of burning and exploding planes. The 
formations began to break up and congestion 
forced some pilots to slow to as little as 80 miles 
an hour. The C-46's displayed remarkable re- 
sistance to stalling, but one, apparently unhit, did 
dive into the ground with all its crew and troops. 
The other 68 in the serials dropped their troops 
from heights of 600 to 1,000 feet. Of three 
stragglers, two dropped behind the seventh serial 
at 1023, and the other after running into inter- 
ference in two passes over the zone dropped its 
troops on the west bank of the Rhine. On one 
plane a bundle stuck in the door prevented a dozen 
men from jumping, and eight others were brought 
back, most of them because of wounds. ^Several 
paratroops made the jump in spite of being already 

Accurate and intense ground fire, especially 
from positions along the Issel, continued while the 
C-46 serials were making their right turn after the 
drop, and some shooting followed them until they 
got back to the Rhine. As the remnants of the 
313th trickled into Achiet between 1110 and 1147 
it became evident that the group had suffered a 
disaster. The German guns had taken a toll of 
19 planes destroyed or fit only for salvage and 
another 38 damaged, many of them severely. 
Personnel losses, though less than at first ex- 

pected, stood a week later at one dead, 22 
wounded or injured, and 33 missing. 

Of the 19 planes lost, 14 had gone down in 
flames. Participants in the mission agreed that the 
C-46 seemed to catch on fire every time it was 
hit in a vital spot. The 313th Group blamed this 
inflammability on the plane's complex hydraulic 
system. The technicians of the 52d Wing at- 
tributed it to the arrangement of the wing tanks 
which, when they were hit, caused gasoline to 
travel along the inside of the wing toward the 

In other respects the C-46 showed it could en- 
dure punishment very well. One Commando re- 
ceived a direct flak hit on the left engine, then 
three in the fuselage, and glided to a landing after 
another hit stopped the right engine. The crew 
tried to count the small holes in the plane from 
bullets and shrapnel, but quit when they reached 
200. Another plane landed safely at a friendly 
base with two large shell holes in the left wing, one 
in the right stabilizer, and major flak damage to the 
left propeller, the controls, the fuselage, the tail 
wheel nacelle, and the wheel itself, not to mention 
numerous bullet holes, some of which had punc- 
tured a gas tank. 40 

Unlike the pilots of Crouch's serial, who were 
vaguely aware that they had missed their mark, 
those of the 313th were sure that they had either 
hit their zone or come extremely close to it. 
Actually they had deposited their paratroops be- 
tween Wi and 2 miles north of DZ X in fields 
southwest of Hamminkeln. Where they crossed 
the Diersfordter Wald the wood was about as wide 
as on their proper course, and the relative position 
of the double-track railroad beyond it was similar 
to what it was on the true zone. Thus such 
glimpses as the fliers had of these landmarks 
merely confirmed them in their error. Indeed, the 
commander of the 513th PIR was equally deceived 
and supposed himself to be on the drop zone for 
quite a while after he reached the ground. The 
puzzling aspect of the situation is not the failure 
of visual navigation but the failure of radar to 
correct it. The 313th reported that its navigators 
made frequent and successful use of Gee both 
along the route and in the DZ area, relying prin- 
cipally on the Ruhr chain. As observed earlier, 
pinpoint accuracy in the use of Gee was not easy 
to attain, but in this case a single good fix should 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 181 

have sufficed to show that the 313th was too far 
to the north." 

Most of the 513th Parachute Infantry came 
down within an area approximately the same size 
as their intended zone. The drop pattern was such 
that they were able to concentrate within an hour 
into about six large groups. The greater part of 
the 2d Battalion assembled and organized within 
thirty minutes under intense small-arms fire. 

Once assembled the paratroops engaged the 
enemy in their vicinity and disposed of them effec- 
tively. The British airborne into whose sector 
they had descended testified that the Americans 
were excellent fighters and very helpful. Fighting 
and reconnoitering in the drop area occupied a 
majority of the 513th PIR until after noon. Not 
until after 1230 did three groups of its men, one 
from the 1st Battalion, one from the 2d, and an- 
other led by the regimental commander, join forces 
about a mile southwest of Hamminkeln. This regi- 
mental nucleus then reorganized and prepared to 
fight its way south into its assigned area. The 
movement was sharply contested and had to be 
interrupted several times for operations against 
strongpoints along the line of advance. However, 
the main body of 5 1 3th reached DZ X about the 
middle of the afternoon. Other portions of the 
regiment made their way to the zone independently 
against opposition varying from fierce to feeble. 
First to reach it was a group from the 3d Battalion 
which had oriented itself quickly, moved south 
immediately after assembly and reached the drop 
zone about 1300. Other bodies of men arrived at 
1330 and 1530. Because the regimental objectives 
in the Diersfordter Wald had already been cleared 
by the 1st Battalion of the 507th PIR and those 
east of the wood had been taken by members of 
the 194th Glider Combat Team, the 513th after 
reaching DZ X was able to deploy almost un- 
opposed into its assigned positions in the northern 
portion of the 17th Division's sector. In spite of, 
or perhaps because of, its peregrinations the regi- 
ment had destroyed two tanks and two batteries 
of 88-mm. guns and captured about 1,150 prison- 
ers during the day. 

One question which had perplexed the leaders 
of the 513th PIR during the morning was the 
whereabouts of their supporting artillery unit, the 
466th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion. They 
were all completely out of contact with it. The 
reason was that the battalion had come down 

where it was supposed to, on DZ X. The last 
parachute serial, a formation of 45 C-47's from 
the 434th Group, had flown accurately to the drop 
zone and dropped 376 artillerymen and 12 howit- 
zers* there at 1023. Nine overeager men had 
jumped west of the Rhine, and two wounded men 
were brought back. Ground fire against that serial 
was nowhere more than moderate. It caused the 
loss of only one plane and damage to 17. This 
record suggests that if the two preceding serials 
had followed the proper course their losses would 
have been much less than those they did incur. 51 

At first the fighting in the drop area was severe, 
and the artillerymen with only a couple of sticks 
of infantry to assist them were in a difficult posi- 
tion. All the officers in one battery were killed or 
wounded within a few minutes after they hit the 
ground. However, the 466th fought manfully to 
clear its zone and was greatly aided by glider 
troops landed north of it on LZ N and south of it 
on LZ S. Here is a case in which the closeness of 
the zones and the decision to bring in the gliders 
immediately after the paratroops was beneficial 
and may have saved the artillerymen from heavy 
losses. The amount of infantry fighting that the 
artillerymen had to do is shown by the fact that 
they killed some 50 Germans, took 320 prisoners 
and captured ten 76-mm. guns, eight 20-mm. guns 
and 18 machine guns. 

Within 30 minutes after its jump the battalion 
had some howitzers in operation. Except for one 
piece which had been damaged by enemy fire, all 
its 12 howitzers were in position and ready to 
fire by 1300 hours. Radio contact with the 513th 
Regiment was made about noon, and during the 
regiment's move south the 466th gave it effective 
artillery support against several German strong- 
points. The gunners' performance was the more 
creditable in that they were in the strange situation 
of firing from behind the enemy toward their own 
attacking infantry. 52 

The Lift and Initial Operations of 
the American Glider Troops 

-«=• A Stars and Stripes headline on the day after 
VARSITY proclaimed that "All Was Clockwork" 
in the American glider operations. Successful they 

*Three howitzers landed by glider on LZ N joined the bat- 
talion later. 

182 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater Varsity— Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

Figure II. Troop Carrier Aircraft Carrying Paratroops in Operation VARSITY. 

24 March 1945. 

certainly were, but like most combat missions, 
they did not go with metronomic smoothness. 

Of the 610 C-47's and 906 Wacos scheduled to 
go, 8 planes and 14 gliders had to be replaced 
by substitutes, either because of unfitness to take 
off or because they aborted soon after starting. 
An additional 21 gliders dropped out along the 
route, principally on account of loose or ill- 
balanced loads, but also because of structural 
weaknesses and towing difficulties. Three pairs of 
Wacos flying in double-tow had the short-tow 
glider foul its mate's rope, with the result that two 
lost wings and crashed and three had to be cut 
loose. Aside from these accidents, double-tow 
worked well. Although the slowness with which 
double-tow combinations took the air, even on 
runways close to 6,000 feet long, made observers 
hold their breath, there were no_ crashes on take-off. 
Formation flying along the way was made difficult 
by extreme turbulence, which Col. Adriel N. Wil- 
liams of the 436th Group called the worst he had 
ever experienced. So strenous was the task of 
holding the gliders in position that many of their 
pilots and co-pilots were glad to be able to alter- 
nate in 15-minute stints at the controls. As a 
further complication, the prescribed air speed of 
110 miles an hour turned out to be too slow, 
causing some near stalls and much jockeying for 
position. Thanks to the clear skies, the simple 

course, and the effective system of beacons no 
serious navigational problems appeared until the 
formations reached the Rhine. The intercom sets, 
as usual, proved unsatisfactory. In the 50th Wing 
less than half of them functioned. 

The first contingent, two serials apiece from 
the 437th, 436th, 435th, and 439th Troop Carrier 
Groups (the last being under the control of the 
53d Wing for the operation), all used double-tow, 
and were the only ones to use it. They flew the 
194th Glider Infantry Regiment, the 680th and 
68 1 st Field Artillery Battalions and four batteries 
of the 155th Antiaircraft Battalion to LZ S. The 
zone was a crude rectangle more than two miles 
long and more than a mile wide, with its long axis 
tilted east-southeast. It was about half a mile 
southeast of DZ X and about two miles northeast 
of Wesel. The double-track railroad ran just to 
the west of it. The most obvious landmark on the 
LZ itself was the Issel, which curved across the 
zone, isolating the eastern quarter from the rest. 

The standard procedure was take-off at 30- 
second intervals from static hook-up. At Melun 
and Brctigny the 435th and 436th groups were 
able to use two runways, one for each serial, but 
the 437th at Coulommiers and the 439th at 
Chateaudun had to get along with a single runway 
apiece. Nevertheless, the 437th Group, which 
began its take-offs at 0734 had its first serial as- 


Varsity— Airborne Assault Across Rhine Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 183 

Figure 12. Paratroop Drop near Wesel, Germany, during Operation VARSITY. 

24 March 1945. 

sembled and swinging over the field onto course at 
0823. The rest followed it to Wavre and down 
the center lane to the Rhine. Their performance 
en route was good but, for reasons already noted, 
by no means perfect. The commander of the 53d 
Wing, while expressing himself later as very well 
pleased with his men, considered that even the 
best formation could have been improved. 

The run-in from the bend in the Rhine near 
Xanten to LZ S was about six miles long. It 
touched the southern edge of DZ W. There the 
column was to split in two, one line heading for 
the northern part of the landing zone and one for 
the southern part, so that the gliders in each serial 
could avoid congestion by landing in pairs in two 
separate patterns. In order to land into the wind 
they were to make a 270° turn to the left after 

The glider formations met with the same smoke 
and haze which had proved such an obstacle to 
the paratroop echelon. Visibility over parts of the 
run-in area was reported to be as low as an eighth 
of a mile, and the landing zone itself was very hard 
to see. However, only a fraction of one or two 
serials appear to have gone off course. Possibly 

the pilots could observe the landmarks better than 
the faster-moving paratroop formations, or possi- 
bly the zone was far enough to the southwest to 
be somewhat in the lee of the smoke. 

During the approach ground fire brought down 
two planes in the lead serial, forcing their gliders 
to cut and land about a mile short of their destina- 
tion. However, the thickest fire was at the LZ 
and on the turn and consisted at worst of moderate 
light flak and intense automatic and small arms 
fire. In all, out of 295 planes entering the battle 
area on their way to LZ S, 12 were shot down, one 
lost by accident on its return, and about 140 
damaged. Although 14 of the damaged planes 
were forced to make emergency landings and about 
that many more needed 3d or 4th echelon repairs, 
a great many had nothing but harmless bullet 
holes. Of the crews, four men were known to be 
dead, seven wounded, and 23 missing at the end of 
the month. 

The lead serial made its release at 1036, the 
last at 1 140. Within little more than an hour they 
delivered approximately 572 gliders containing 
3,492 troops and 637 tons of cargo, including 202 

184 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

jeeps, 94 trailers, and 78 mortars and artillery 
pieces, to the vicinity of LZ S.* 

As usual that day most of the serials appear 
to have reached the zone between 5 and 10 min- 
utes ahead of schedule. An exception to this was 
the 436th Group, which was 14 minutes early. It 
overran the rear formations of the 437th Group, 
causing a jam. As a result about half the pilots of 
the 436th had to climb and release their gliders 
from altitudes between 1,000 and 1,700 feet. The 
other serials maintained safe intervals and with few 
exceptions released in formation from heights of 
400 to 800 feet. 

Once Wesel was passed, the return was un- 
opposed. The planes swept back across the Rhine, 
dropped their tow ropes in a specially designated 
zone five miles south of Xanten,f and headed home 
on the prescribed reciprocal course. The first 
planes of the lead serial reached Coulommiers on 
schedule at 1225, and by 1345 most formations 
had landed. The flow of stragglers continued until 
1500. At least 37 of them had simply stopped at 
authorized emergency fields to refuel. 

In accuracy and concentration the glider land- 
ings compared favorably with those in previous 
operations. Since the conditions were far from 
favorable, the improvement may be attributed 
to better training and especially to the rule that 
every glider pilot make at least five landings a 
month. Of 157 loads delivered by the first two 
serials, 139 were well concentrated at their proper 
destination, the east end of LZ S, 1 1 landed within 
a mile of the zone, 4 fell short as a result of enemy 
action, 2 were missing, and 1 straggler landed 
several miles to the north. A sequence of 15 
gliders at the tail of the lead serial achieved the 
feat of packing themselves into a strip a quarter- 
mile long, and the first dozen of the next serial did 
equally well in a neighboring area. 

In the four middle serials the Wacos were spread 
loosely all over the zone, about a dozen outliers 
were scattered up to a mile away from it, and two 
landed more than two miles off in the British sec- 
tor. After the last two serials split at DZ W, part 
of the left-hand line deviated too far to the north. 

*The initial load had been 592 Wacos with 3,594 troops and 
654 tons of cargo including 208 jeeps, 101 trailers and 84 mor- 
tars and guns. 

tSimilar areas had been designated for other glider missions, 
but this was the first in which friendly territory could be used 
for the purpose. Tow ropes were too valuable to be dropped 
at random or over enemy territory if it could be avoided. At 
the same time, falling ropes were too dangerous to allow 
their being dropped on the zones or near the troop concentra- 
tions on the west bank of the Rhine. 

In consequence, of 141 gliders brought across the 
Rhine by those two serials, only 58 landed as they 
were supposed to on the west end of the zone, a 
couple of others were on other parts of the LZ, 
about 50 within a mile of it, mostly to the north- 
west, 21 between 1 and 2 miles northwest, 4 
slightly further in that direction, and 6 were missing. 

This error by the 439th Group, the only sig- 
nificant inaccuracy by American glider forma- 
tions in VARSITY, was less serious than it might 
have been. Since most of the territory for three 
miles northwest of LZ S was occupied by other 
drop and landing zones, most of the misplaced 
glider men found themselves among friendly 

As the gliders swooped down in their 270° 
turn, they ran into savage fire from flak and small 
arms. According to one prisoner, the Germans 
had fused their shells to burst at 500 feet, a little 
low for most of the planes but effective against 
the gliders. Also, it was observed that the gunners 
seemed to concentrate on the gliders rather than 
on the planes. Over 50 percent of the descending 
craft were hit by flak and a similar proportion by 
small arms. Less than a third were unhit. The 
gliders given high releases by the 436th Group 
seem to have suffered a little more than the rest 
from flak, but otherwise all serials fared approxi- 
mately the same. Never had the toughness and 
stability of the Wacos shown to better advantage. 
Though most of them were hit, only a few, perhaps 
half a dozen, were shot down. 

The enemy had set up no landing obstacles 
worthy of mention, but many gliders were wrecked 
on landing, usually by collision with trees, phone 
poles or other gliders. Wgunded pilots and dam- 
aged controls were contributing factors in some 
cases. The report on one glider was "Controls hit 
by flak in air. Wings and nose gone. Pilot and 
co-pilot hit. 12 EM WIA." "Wing tip shorn on 
telephone pole. Landing gear shorn in trees. Flak 
hit tail in air. Load and personnel O.K." was the 
laconic entry on another.* As usual a majority of 
the Wacos suffered minor damage to landing gear, 
nose or wings, generally from landing on soft 
ground or hitting fences or hedges. Such acci- 
dents, however, rarely harmed occupants or cargo. 
One glider plunged through three fences without 
damaging its contents. 

*Report of Glider Operation, 24 Mar 45, Serial #10, in 
KCRC, files of 1 7th Abn Div. 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 185 

The moment after landing was the most perilous 
of all. The zone was infested with entrenched rifle- 
men and machine gunners. Every building in sight 
seemed to house its crew of snipers. There were 
several batteries of 20-mm. flak guns, at least 
four 75-mm. and 88-mm. pieces and innumerable 
mortars in action. At least nine gliders were 
destroyed on the ground by shells and tracers. 
Several other Wacos were so raked by machine 
guns and rifle fire that all or most of the occupants 
were hit before they could take cover. Under the 
circumstances fighting came first and assembly 

The role of the 194th Glider Infantry and its 
attendant artillery was to occupy the southeast 
corner of the divisional sector bounded on the 
east and south by the Issel River and Canal. It 
was to make contact with the British commandos 
on the southwest, the 507th PIR to the west and 
the 513th PIR on the north. 

At first fez S was a scene of the wildest con- 
fusion with at least 150 small battles raging at 
various points. In these fights concentration 
counted heavily. The 2d Battalion with 90 percent 
of its gliders on the zone, most of them well 
grouped, was off to the best start. Its companies 
had assembled and were advancing on their ob- 
jectives within 45 minutes after landing. Fastest 
of all was half of Company E. Thanks to ex- 
emplary performances by pilots and glider pilots 
of the 437th Troop Carrier Group in the second 
serial it was able to assemble within a quarter of an 
hour, taking 50 prisoners in the process. Shortly 
thereafter it and part of Company F converged 
upon a German regimental CP and took it with a 
rush. So bewilderingly swift had been their on- 
slaught that as the German commander was going 
out the door of the dugout under guard, an 
orderly, unaware that the CP had been captured, 
dashed out of an inner room calling "Sir, you for- 
got your maps." 

By noon the 194th Glider Regiment was 73 
percent assembled, and German resistance was 
beginning to crumble. The defenders' efforts had 
been directed principally at knocking out the air- 
borne forces as they landed. Once the speed and 
size of the attack and the aggressiveness of the 
attackers made it evident that that was a vain hope, 
most of the Nazis saw no point in further resist- 
ance. The only area in which substantial counter- 
attacks were attempted was to the south. In that 

sector the Germans struck back, using several 
Mark IV tanks. Four of the tanks were knocked 
out by bazookas, but Company G was repeatedly 
pinned down and had some of its positions over- 
run. Not until sundown did a patrol get through 
to Wesel to make contact with the commando 
troops. That night much of the area between the 
landing zone and the city was still a no-man's land. 
Out of it about midnight emerged a force of about 
150 Germans with two or three tanks and self- 
propelled guns. They ran into the glider pilots of 
the 435th Group, who, organized as an infantry 
company, and with the help of a couple of antiair- 
craft batteries, were guarding a crossroad north- 
east of Wesel. The defenders held their fire until 
the enemy was close, then smashed the attack with 
a single volley, which killed about 50 men and 
knocked out a tank. The Germans stumbled off 
into the darkness, ran against a position manned 
by glider infantry and broke up. So ended organ- 
ized resistance in the territory allotted to the 194th 
Glider Regiment. The regiment had taken about 
1,150 prisoners and had destroyed or captured 
10 tanks, 2 flak wagons, 37 artillery pieces and ten 
20-mm, antiaircraft guns. The airborne units on 
LZ S had had over 50 dead and 100 wounded or 
injured during the landings and the initial assembly 
period. Of the glider pilots accompanying them 
18 were killed, 80 wounded or injured, and 30 
still missing three weeks later. 

It is to be noted that the first artillery support re- 
ceived by the 194th Glider Infantry came not from 
the guns landed with it but from British guns 
across the Rhine, against targets given them over 
the radio of the 681st Field Artillery. They went 
into action soon after the landings, at a time when 
assistance was particularly welcome, and continued 
to good effect throughout the day. In some contrast 
to this was the effort of the 680th Field Artillery 
which fired only three missions totalling 20 rounds 
that day, although it did manage to get eight guns 
into position after a dispersed landing and some 
hard infantry fighting. Two of its guns had been 
landed too far away to reach the unit on D-day, 
and two had been destroyed by enemy fire. The 
681st was firing coordinated missions within two 
hours after landing and executed six missions that 
day, firing a total of 79 rounds. It had assembled 
10 usable guns. Another, landed beyond the Issel, 
was fired, but later abandoned. All of the anti- 
aircraft guns appear to have arrived safely/' 4 

186 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

The last seven American glider serials were to 
go to LZ N. This zone, about 1 Vi miles long and 
half a mile wide, lay against the east side of the 
Diersfordter Wald about 4 miles north of Wesel. 
It was tightly sandwiched between DZ X on the 
south and two British landing zones to the north. 
Once again the principal landmark on the zone 
was the ubiquitous double-track railway, which 
slanted across its western end. 

The 440th Group was to send two 45 -plane 
serials to LZ N from Bricy, the 441st one of 48 
from Dreux, the 442d one of 48 from St. Andre de 
l'Eure, and the 441st and 442d would each con- 
tribute half of another 48-plane serial from 
Chartres. These were all from the 50th Wing and 
would fall into line at Pontoise, the wing departure 
point. Two 40-plane serials of the 314th Group 
from Poix in the 5 2d Wing area would take posi- 
tion behind them at Wavre. All were to haul Waco 
gliders in single-tow. Bricy had a giant runway 
7,700 feet long, but the other bases were unsuitable 
for double-tow operations, either because of short 
runways or lack of marshalling facilities. 

The load going to LZ N amounted to 1,321 
troops and 382 tons of supplies and equipment, 
including 143 jeeps, 97 trailers and carts and 20 
guns and mortars. The troops consisted of the 
139th Engineer Battalion and a melange of medics, 
signal men and staff personnel. These specialists 
had been protected as far as possible by sending 
them last and by providing that the 513th PIR 
should occupy the landing zone before they ar- 
rived. However, at the time of the landings the 
513th was still pulling itself together after its 
unexpected drop near Hamminkeln. 

Take-off and assembly was punctual and with- 
out serious accidents, although the strong wind 
created difficulties, especially at St. Andre de 
l'Eure, where it blew at right angles to the runway. 
The leader of the 440th Group took off from 
Bricy at 0831, and all 90 of his group's tug-glider 
combinations were in the air within 38 minutes, 
having taken off at 20-second intervals.* The 
442d Group's 48-plane serial from St. Andre 
began its take-offs at 0900 and swung over the 
field in full formation headed for Pontoise at 0935. 

Wind, turbulence, prop-wash, and the unduly 
slow air speed specified in the orders gradually 
distorted the glider formations, and caused the rear 

*Two had to return with engine trouble and were replaced by 

elements of the serials to stack up until they were 
some 400 feet or more above the leaders. On the 
other hand, all but one glider, which was cut loose 
because of structural weakness, arrived at the 
Rhine squarely on course, within sighting distance 
of the white panels and yellow smoke which 
marked the point where they were to cross the 
river. Excellent fighter cover, both above and 
below their level, protected them as they ap- 
proached the battle area. Between Wavre and the 
Rhine eight flights of fighters were seen, and pro- 
tection by one flight or more was continuous. No 
German fighters came forth to challenge them. 

Ground fire between the Rhine and the landing 
zone was remarkably meager and ineffective. 
There was only an occasional rattle of small-arms 
fire as the serials crossed the concave waist of the 
Diersfordter Wald. Most of the enemy in that 
part of the wood had already been dealt with by 
the 507th Parachute Infantry. Fire from the zone 
itself was hot enough to make Lt. Col W, H. 
Parkhill of the 441st Group describe it as a flam- 
ing hellhole, but the shooting was directed at the 
gliders. The planes were mostly left alone. 

Between 1404 and 1505 the serials returned 
to their bases almost intact arnid a festive at- 
mosphere at opposite poles from the anxiety and 
sorrow in the 313th Group. Out of 313 planes 
winging over or near LZ N only 3 were lost 
and 44 damaged. Moreover, only 9 of the 
damaged craft needed 3d or 4th echelon repairs. 
Not a man in their crews was killed or missing and 
just 3 were wounded. All losses and most of 
the damage appear to have been incurred during 
the turn, a mile or more beyond the zone at points 
where the formations came temporarily within 
range of enemy positions beyond Issel. 

The first glider release over LZ N was made at 
1155, five minutes ahead of schedule, and subse- 
quent releases ran from three to six minutes early. 
The seven-minute interval allotted each serial 
proved a little too tight for 48-plane formations, 
and one or two of them overran their predecessors. 
This happened to the 441st Group's serial from 
Dreux, and probably accounts for the fact that it 
released too soon and too high, at the west end of 
the zone instead of the east and at 1,000 to 2,000 
feet instead of 600 feet above the ground. In other 
serials the lead elements generally came in at about 
the right height, but the rear usually slanted up to 
over 1,200 feet and in the last serial as high as 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 187 

2,500 feet. Such differences in altitude made it 
impossible to follow a uniform landing pattern. 
Many gliders were so high that their pilots felt it 
necessary to make more than the prescribed 270 
degree left turn, and some in the 441st Group 
made one or even two complete circles before 
beginning that turn. 

Haze and smoke, which still held visibility to 
about half a mile, also disrupted the landings. 
The glider pilots could see the ground beneath 
them quite well but could make out very little 
ahead of them or to the side until they were about 
200 feet from the ground. Men who did not know 
exactly where they were on release needed a rare 
eye for terrain to orient themselves on the basis 
of a few fields and farm buildings. Many had no 
idea where they were when they landed. 

Intense fire, mainly from small arms, met the 
gliders as they coasted down. As a rule, whether 
by design or because they could not see through 
the smoke, the Germans held their fire until the 
Wacos were below the 500-foot level, so the high 
releases did not produce appreciably greater dam- 
age or casualties than the normal ones. Only one 
glider is known to have been shot down, but at 
least a quarter of them were hit, producing some 
damage and several casualties. 

Every one of the serials intended for LZ N ap- 
pears to have released over or very near that 
zone.* This is sufficiently demonstrated by the fact 
that of 302 gliders, the positions of which are 
recorded, about 200 landed on the zone, not more 
than 15 landed over 1,000 yards away from it and 
none more than a mile and a half away. The south 
wind combined with the low visibility to produce 
a tendency to land further north than was proper. 
In the first five serials only 6 gliders landed south 
of the zone and 61, including 5 outside the 1000- 
yard mark, landed to the north. The last two 
serials, which had been allotted the southwest 
portion of the zone, released over or outside the 
edge within sight of panel markings and smoke set 
out on DZ X. As a result none of their gliders 
came down north of LZ N but about 31 landed 
south of it, 7 of them far enough south to be on or 
near LZ S.f 

*As on LZ S, the formations were to split as they approached 
the zone and release in columns of pairs 600 yards apart. Ele- 
ments of these columns may have spread too widely. 

tThe three landing farthest south had made a right turn in- 
stead of a left turn on release. (MR 50th TC Sq, 24 Mar 45; Hq 
50th TC, Operation VARSITY, Composite Narrative of Squad- 
ron Glider Pilots, 30 Mar 45.) 

Although accuracy was fairly good, concentra- 
tion was poor. The first two serials, scheduled to 
land in the north central part of the zone, spread 
out quite evenly all over it. The next, supposed to 
use the east end of the LZ, put 15 gliders at its 
western end and scattered many others. The last 
four serials were likewise dispersed, but with a 
tendency to string out from north to south. It was 
exceptional for a sequence of more than four 
gliders to land together. Thus, whereas initial 
assembly of the airborne on LZ S was frequently 
by platoons and pairs of platoons, on LZ N it had 
to be by squads and pairs of squads. Although 
there were some complaints that the glider pilots 
had lacked air discipline and had gone on the 
principle of every man for himself, the prevailing 
view was that they had landed as well as could 
be expected, considering that they had to contend 
with low visibility and intense ground fire and that 
so many of them had been released from faulty 
formations at improper altitudes. Those in the 
later serials had the added excuse of having found 
the best of their assigned fields already occupied 
not only by American gliders but by several British 

Unwilling to serve as targets any longer than 
necessary, a large proportion of the glider pilots 
dove down in tight spirals and made fast, rough 
landings. Over^SO percent of the gliders were 
damaged in accidents, but once again almost all 
their loads came through intact. While some gliders 
landed among friendly troops north or south of 
LZ N, the zone itself was enemy territory. No 
advance party of paratroops had arrived to neutral- 
ize it. The Germans seemed to have a detachment 
in every building or patch of woods, and although 
loath to venture from cover, they maintained a 
steady fire. Many glider men were slain in their 
seats, and many loads were burned or destroyed 
by mortars. In several cases the airborne were 
pinned down for as much as two hours. As of early 
April, glider pilot casualties stood at 14 dead, 26 
wounded, and 51 missing, a ratio indicating re- 
sistance almost as severe as that on LZ S. Actually 
the defending force in the vicinity of LZ N appears 
to have been relatively small and lacking in 
artillery* but its opponents, not much more 
numerous, were mostly semi-combatant specialists, 
and rather widely dispersed. Fighting lasted 

*A single 88-mm. gun is said to have been the only piece of 
sizable artillery on the zone. (Hist 97th TC Sq; Mar 45.) 

188 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

until about 0530 with the 139th Engineer Bat- 
talion doing the lion's share of the work in clearing 
the zone. That day its men killed 83 Germans and 
captured 3 15. r,!i 


Close behind the last troop carrier formation 
came the bombers engaged in the D-day resupply 
mission. In contrast to the bombers' supply drop 
in MARKET, this had been planned well in ad- 
vance. The Second Air Division had been told in 
general terms by the Eighth Air Force on 9 
March to prepare for such a mission. On the 14th 
in collaboration with Eighth Air Force planners 
the Division had blocked out a tentative plan 
which called for a run on a south-to-north head- 
ing followed by a quick left turn into friendly ter- 
ritory. However, in the big conference at Second 
TAF on the 17th the plan was changed to give the 
bombers the same route as the troop carriers as 
far as the drop zones and a right turn after the 
drop to take advantage of measures to be taken 
against flak in the Wesel area. 

The field order issued by the Division on the 
22d called for 240 B-24's to take off from East 
Anglia and pick up the troop carrier route at 
Hawkinge. The bomber force was to keep in the 
right-hand lane from Wavre on and was to de- 
scend gradually from heights of 3,000 feet over 
England, 1,500 feet over the Channel, and 1,000 
feet at Wavre to a drop altitude between 300 and 
500 feet. From a cruising speed of 160 miles an 
hour at Wavre the B-24's were to slow to 155 
miles per hour at the IP and to 150 or under for 
the drop. Any danger that they would overrun 
the much slower glider formations was to be re- 
ported by the escort commander in time for the 
bombers to regain a proper interval by making a 
circle or a dogleg. At Wavre the nine groups com- 
mitted were to fall into trail and at the IP the 
individual flights would do so. The basic forma- 
tion would be the nine-plane V of V's, loose en 
route and tightened for the final run. Two weather 
planes 20 minutes ahead were to report on condi- 
tions at the destination. 

At 1257 the first planes were to begin dropping 
supplies for the 17th Airborne to Supply Drop 
Point W. This was an oval about 2,000 yards 
long from east to west and 1 ,500 yards from north 
to south, roughly identical with DZ W. It may be 

recalled that the big bend in the river near Xanten, 
the lake known as the Alter Rhein, and the south- 
ern edge of the Diersfordter Wald provided con- 
venient landmarks on the way to that zone. 
Airborne troops on the spot were to mark the zone 
with a red T, white letter W and red smoke and 
were also to have an M/F beacon in operation. 
The 120 planes in the rear of the column were to 
deliver their loads to 6 Airborne Division on 
SDP B. This was a diamond-shaped area about 
2,000 yards across located about 4Vi miles east 
of the Rhine and about % of a mile west of 
Hamminkeln with the double-track railroad on 
its southwest edge. It was to be marked with a 
yellow T, green smoke, and a white letter B, sup- 
plemented by an M/F beacon. In addition a 
VHF landing beacon (SCS-51) was to be set up 
at the IP and aimed at SDP B so that the bombers 
could ride along its beam to their objective. After 
completing the drop the bombers were to turn to 
the right, climb to 2,500 feet and return along the 
troop carrier route to Wavre. From there they 
would make almost a bee-line return to their bases 
by way of Ostend. 

Supplies for the airborne had been requisitioned 
well in advance. Those for the Americans had 
been packed by the 490th Quartermaster Depot 
Company and those for the British by the Air 
Dispatch Group. The packages were then sent to 
the Third Strategic Air Depot at Neaton, and 
from there between 20 and 23 March they were 
distributed to the bomber bases, all of which were 
within 30 miles of the depot. At 1430 on the 23d 
loading began. Thanks to careful preparation this 
unfamiliar task was accomplished without diffi- 
culty. The Second Air Division had conducted 
tests and issued a special letter of instructions; the 
490th Quartermaster Company had provided two- 
instructor-demonstrators and the personnel of the 
bomb groups had been given special training in 
loading and dropping procedure. 

Each plane was to carry about 2Vi tons of 
cargo, wrapped in 20 or 21 bundles, a dozen for- 
ward in the bomb racks, five or six in and around 
the ball turret well (the turret having been re- 
moved), and three at the emergency escape hatch 
in the tail. Because their load was abnormally 
light, the Liberators tended to be tail-heavy. Con- 
sequently ammunition and other heavy articles 
were concentrated forward. All bundles of gaso- 
line cans were placed at the turret well. Some 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 189 

indestructable items were to be allowed to fall free, 
but most were to have parachutes, each of the four 
classes being distinguished by a chute of a differ- 
ent color.™ 

The first bombers rose into the air from their 
East Anglia bases at 0910. Take-off and group 
assembly were fast and efficient. The big planes 
rolled away at average intervals of considerably 
less than a minute apiece. Briefing errors caused 
some groups to take wrong positions in the line, 
and though attempts were made to correct this 
situation, the confusion thus created seems to have 
caused recurrent overrunning and stringing out. 
Most inconvenienced by this was the 491st Group, 
which was to lead the drop at SDP B. It had to 
make several "S's" and doglegs to keep behind 
the 44th Group and had to swerve again to avoid 
it as they reached the Rhine. At least one group 
went down on the deck to avoid the prop wash of 
its predecessor. 

Navigation was very good, and unintentional 
deviations from course were few and generally 
unimportant. Two flights of the 389th Group did 
find themselves heading to the south of SDP W 
and had to circle for a second pass. In the 448th 
Group, headed for SDP B, an accidental drop 
west of the Rhine by one plane caused four more 
to drop all or most of their loads west of the river. 
Two other pilots in that group reported dropping 
at random in the American sector. The first forma- 
tion made its drop at 1310 and the last about 
1330. There seem to have been no major errors, 
but minor ones were sufficient to spread supplies 
all over the Diersfordt area. Fortunately, few 
pilots overshot the mark by so much as to put them 
beyond the territory held by the airborne, so almost 
all the bundles were recoverable. 

The bomber men blamed the dispersion of the 
supplies on haze and smoke so thick that a forma- 
tion half a mile ahead was invisible. Because the 
bombers were making their run at speeds 20-30 
percent faster than those of the troop carriers and 
were engaged in an unfamiliar type of operation, 
this short field of vision was a particularly serious 
handicap for them. They also complained that 
reception of the M/F beacons had been poor. 
However, their Gee sets had functioned perfectly, 
the VHF beacon beamed at SDP B had worked 
very well, and the columns of colored smoke at the 
drop points had been plainly seen by many pilots. 

Probably the biggest source of error was ap- 

proach from too low an altitude. Many flights 
came in at altitudes between 100 and 300 feet, 
and some pilots had to zoom to clear the high 
tension line. This sort of hedge-hopping was not 
conducive to accurate navigation, nor could pilots 
coming in on the deck have a right to expect much 
assistance from either radio beacons or visual aids. 
Another factor contributing to dispersion was the 
time taken to eject the bundles. Bundles in the 
bomb bay could be released by turning a switch, 
and those in the rear of the plane could, if all went 
well, be shoved out in six seconds after the men 
there were notified by the alarm bell, but a balky 
bundle or a fouled line could easily cause enough 
delay for a plane moving at 150 miles an hour to 
go a mile or two. There was also an element of 
risk inhibiting hasty movement around an open 
hole. One man was whisked through the turret 
well along with the bundles he was pitching out. 

The 17th Division G-4 was unable to collect 
more than about 50 percent of 306 tons of sup- 
plies dropped for that division. However, it was 
known that many bundles had been picked up 
and used on the battlefield without any report. 
The British airborne reported that about 85 per- 
cent of their 292-ton consignment landed in the 
divisional area and 10 percent to the north of it. 
On 7 April they reported having recovered about 
80 percent, a very high ratio for parachute resup- 
ply. Probably the actual recovery ratio for the 
1 7th Division was equally good. 

The Liberators met no opposition until after 
the supplies were dropped, but after that they ran 
into light flak and small-arms fire which in the 
opinion of some participants surpassed anything 
they had encountered on bombing missions. In 
spite of their armor 15 of the B-24's were shot 
down* and 104 of them were damaged. Astonish- 
ing to relate, the bombers' loss ratio was seven 
times that of the C-47's which had flown to LZ N 
only a few minutes earlier. The losses and damage 
were so distributed that no single battery could 
have caused more than a small fraction of them. 
Some planes were hit very near their zones, others 
near Wesel after turning homeward. Seven of the 
1 5 lost aircraft were missing and unaccounted for. 
It seems possible that in some cases the momentum 
of the relatively fast and heavy Liberators carried 
them beyond the Issel before they could complete 
their turns, thus giving German gunners who had 

*One may have hit a mast or other obstacle. 

190 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

never had a shot at the C-47's nor revealed them- 
selves to the flak eradicators of 83 Group an 
opportunity to spray the bombers at close range. 57 
Before the last bomber dropped its load of sup- 
plies, the airborne troops had made contact with 
advance elements of Second Army. As the after- 
noon advanced other contacts were made, and 
German resistance disintegrated at an accelerating 
tempo. Accordingly, although 6 Airborne Divi- 
sion requested that the resupply mission for D 
plus i be sent as scheduled, Second Army can- 
celled it about 1600 on the 24th on the grounds 
that it was not needed. VARSITY was over. 5S 

The Exploitation of VARSITY 

Although the airborne troops employed in 
VARSITY had been integrated into the ground 
offensive before the end of D-day, and although 
no further airborne or resupply missions were 
flown, a brief look at subsequent events is neces- 
sary to reveal the results of the operation. 

As recorded earlier, the fighting done by the 
airborne during the first few hours had been on a 
small-unit basis, with regimental headquarters 
gradually establishing control. Corps and divi- 
sional staffs did not begin to function until after 
mid-afternoon. General Ridgway and a small staff 
from XVIII Corps reached DZ W at 1526 hours 
after having crossed the Rhine by assault boat. 
The 17th Division opened its CP at Fliiren at 
1600 hours, and the corps headquarters shared 
its facilities. 

After beating off counterattacks east of Wesel 
and west of Ringenberg on the night of the 24th 
both airborne divisions spent most of D plus I 
in mopping up very f eeble resistance. The front 
ran from the Rhine about a mile north of Bislich 
to the Issel River, a mile north of Hamminkeln, 
along the river to the Issel Canal, and along the 
canal to the outskirts of Wesel. It included several 
Allied bridgeheads on the far side of the river 
and the canal. In Wesel itself the commando 
brigade, which became attached to XVIII Corps 
on the morning of the 25th, continued to have 
hard fighting throughout the day at some places 
but had nearly finished its task by nightfall. 

During the afternoon and night of D plus 1 the 
17th Airborne moved quietly across the Issel and 
into positions along the autobahn. At 0900 on 
the 26th it attacked with ample artillery and tank 

support, swept ahead easily, and by 1100 had 
reached points six miles east of Wesel. That after- 
noon elements of the 507th P1R took a bridge 
over the Lippe outside Krudenburg seven miles 
east of Wesel and made contact there with units 
of Simpson's Ninth Army. The British airborne 
also pushed between two and three miles eastward 
but were unable to take Ringenberg on their 
northern flank. 

On the 27th General Miley gave the order 
"Advance to Dorsten. This is a pursuit." At mid- 
night a British armored brigade passed through 
the positions of the 17th Division, and next day 
troops of that division rode tanks into the outskirts 
of Dorsten, some 14 miles east of Wesel. All 
German lines had been broken, and Montgomery's 
armored columns, sweeping through the gaping 
hole, were free to drive into the heart of Germany. 
On the 29th a spearhead plunged 16 miles to 
Haltern and Dulmen. On the 30th XVIII Corps 
Headquarters closed its command post and retired 
to the rear. A few days later the 17th Division 
was also withdrawn. 

Nothing shows the collapse of German resist- 
ance after the first few hours of fighting more 
strikingly than the Allies' casualty figures. Up to 
2400 on D plus 2 the 17th Division had 231 men 
reported killed in action and 670 wounded, ex- 
clusive of injuries. Most of these casualties had 
been suffered in the first five hours of the operation. 
During the five days from D plus 2 through D plus 
7 only 74 more were reported killed and 1 02 more 
wounded, including about 40 men who had been 
previously listed as missing. On 31 March the 
division reported a total of 284 men missing and 
182 injured, only 20 of the injuries being serious. 
Since few were injured and hardly any cut off after 
the initial phase of the operation, these figures 
probably approximate the toll of injured and cap- 
tured resulting from the VARSITY drops and 
landings. ■ 

The Americans on their part-took about 3,000 
German prisoners on D-day. During the spec- 
tacular advances of the next four days they took 
less than 1,000, and most of those were overrun 
rather than overcome. During much of that time 
there was no contact with organized enemy forces. 
Resistance consisted of little more than sniping 
and the defense of a few roadblocks. Meanwhile, 
the American Ninth Army had been moving 
rapidly, despite stiff opposition in some places, 

Varsity—Airborne Assault Across Rhine Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 191 

and by the 28th had pushed its front to a line 
extending from Dorsten south to Gladbeck. On 
the northern flank, however, Montgomery's troops 
in the Rees area were held close to the Rhine 
throughout four days of hard fighting. They were 
able to advance on the 28th as far as Emmerich 
on the north and the Issel on the east, but even 
this success must be discounted, because by then 
their opponents' position had been rendered un- 
tenable by the deep penetration of the Allied air- 
borne troops south of them. While_ it seems 
impossible for the Germans to have stopped the 
massive forces arraye^for_ELIJNDER, the slow 
costly progress around Rees indicates that they 
might have contained a purely amphibious assault 
by Second Army for several days. If so, VAR- 
SITY deserves recognition as the decisive stroke 
which brought about a quick breakthrough. 59 

Special Features of VARSITY 

Some aspects of VARSITY, notably the roles 
of the forward visual control posts, the combat 
control teams, the glider pilot "companies," and 
glider salvage, require special mention. The Horsas 
carrying the three forward, visual control units 
landed safely and accurately. However, the equip- 
ment for one team burned after being hit by 
German artillery. A second team was in opera- 
tion at the 6 Division CP within two hours after 
its landing. It quickly made radio contact with 
the Forward Ground Control Center and that 
afternoon directed fighters from 83 Group's "cab 
rank" against four targets given it by the G-3 Air 
of 6 Division. Next day the team handled 22 
accurate and generally successful missions against 
targets which were sometimes within as little as 
300 yards of the British positions. On an average 
requests took only about five minutes to go from 
the troops to brigade to G-3 for evaluation and 
another five for transmission to the pilots by the 
forward visual control post (FVCP) with the 
forward ground control center monitoring and 
assigning priorities. The plan to have the other 
FVCP join the 17th Airborne after landing on a 
zone in the British sector proved unrealistic. The 
difficulties of moving for several miles across an 
area in which fighting was going on prevented the 
unit from reporting until the morning of D plus 1 . 
After it did arrive it was not much needed and 
directed only four strikes. While the employment 

of the FVCP's was limited, their success, particu- 
larly in the British sector strongly indicated the 
value of having such a system to provide for the 
airborne troops, through precise and punctual air 
support, the firepower which they themselves 
lacked. Tanks were the worst enemy of the air- 
borne, and in its brief period of operations the 
FVCP with 6 Division was credited with calling 
down aerial destruction on 16 German tanks. 60 

The two combat control teams landed at oppo- 
site ends of LZ N, took cover for an hour, and 
then unloaded their equipment. Thanks to the 
policy of duplication they were able to function 
although one of their six gliders had crashed and 
the radio aboard another had been damaged. Both 
teams reported to the 17th Division CP at 1700 
hours that afternoon. Next morning at 0800 they 
went on the air, made contact with the Combined 
Command Post at Maison Lafitte half an hour 
later, and continued in operation until 1050 on D 
plus 2. Cancellation of all airborne missions after 
D-day deprived them of their planned function of 
coordinating troop carrier traffic. They might 
have had difficulty in exercising that function, for 
they did not receive any messages from FAAA, 
although seven out of nine radio messages sent by 
them were received by FAAA. 61 

The discipline and combat effectiveness of the 
glider pilots won high praise from the airborne. 
On both American landing zones they did a good 
job under fire which was everywhere harassing 
and frequently intense. A majority participated 
in the initial assembly and came under the control 
of the wing organizations before nightfall. The 
senior glider officer on LZ S sent 50 pilots to guard 
the CP of the 17th Division, two "companies," to 
hold positions along the railroad embankment at 
the west end of the zone, one "company" to guard 
a crossroad, and one to guard prisoners. As noted 
earlier, the unit at the crossroad performed like 
veterans that night in beating off a German force 
of superior size. The rest had a surprisingly quiet 
night. They were relieved at 0900 next morning 
and marched back to the Rhine, 583 strong, as 
escort for 2,456 prisoners. After delivering the 
prisoners they were taken by DUKW's across 
the Rhine and to a British artillery base, where 
they were given refreshments, put aboard trucks 
and transported to an airfield at Helmond. From 
Helmond troop carrier planes flew them back to 
their home stations. 

192 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

Most of the glider pilots landing on LZ N were 
organized into "companies" under the command 
of the 53d Wing CP and did guard duty or held 
defensive positions during the night for the 513th 
Parachute Infantry. One of their units had a brisk 
fight in the dark with German troops and did well. 
They were not relieved until 1530 on D plus 1, 
and did not leave the battle area until 1730, too 
late to reach Helmond that day. 

Despite some delays at Helmond three quarters 
of the glider pilots were returned to their units 
before the end of D plus 4, and almost all who 
were fit to travel were back within six days. As 
of 9 April only 55 out of about 1,770 American 
glider pilots reaching the combat area were still 
missing. Only 35 glider pilots had been killed, 85 
wounded and 21 injured. 

Although the low casualty rate suggests that 
landing gliders in the midst of an enemy line of 
defense was much less dangerous than had been 
expected, the glider pilots expressed a preference 
for having paratroops on the landing zone ahead of 
them. If assault landings were to be made, they 
recommended that the gliders be provided with 
more and better exits and with some armor or at 
least flak curtains. Also, if they were to play the 
part of combat troops they wanted some heavy 
weapons such as bazookas and BAR's. Once again 
they called for better maps of the landing area, 
preferably on a scale of 1:25,000. In spite of all 
precautions, scattered landings and battlefield con- 
fusion had forced large numbers of the glider 
pilots in VARSITY to find their own way, and in 
such cases possession of an adequate map was a 
life and death matter. On the whole, however, 
they felt that the planning and execution of the 
glider side of VARSITY was the most efficient to 
date and that the problems raised by previous 
missions had mostly been solved. 62 

The gliders in VARSITY had fared much worse 
than their occupants. A caretaker detachment 
sent in on D plus 2 found them in bad shape with 
most of their clocks and compasses gone. Some 
600 repairmen arrived on 4 April and repaired 
148 Wacos enough so they could be snatched" 
and flown to Grimberghen for complete overhaul. 
In the case of the big British gliders, pick-up tac- 
tics were not considered feasible. Of those con- 
veniently located and in good condition, 24 were 
disassembled and hauled away by road to a base 
where they could be repaired, reassembled, and 

flown back. The rest of the American and British 
gliders were salvaged. Salvaged materiel from the 
Wacos alone filled 47 trucks and 30 trailers. 
Nevertheless, the fact remains that less than 17 
percent of the American gliders and 6 percent of 
the British gliders which had landed east of the 
Rhine were recovered in usable condition. 03 


General Brereton described VARSITY as a 
"tremendous success" and rated it the most suc- 
cessful airborne operation hitherto attempted. 
Through the use of multiple traffic lanes, the C-46 
aircraft, and double-tow, nearly 17,000 well- 
equipped airborne troops had been poured into 
an area of less than 25 square miles within four 
hours. This concentration in time and space was 

Captured documents, the testimony of prison- 
ers, and the postwar statements of German gen- 
erals agree that the defenders had anticipated an 
airborne assault in the Wesel-E mmerich sector and 
had prepared for it. They appear to have had at 
least 10,000 men in carefully organized defensive 
positions in the Diersfprdt area. An initial attack 
by one airborne division or less might have been 
resisted stubbornly, as was the assault at Rees. 
Instead the unprecedented and unexpected weight 
of the blow overwhelmed resistance and shattered 
the precarious morale of the defenders. Con- 
tributing to this was surprise^ a s to the precise 
location of the assault area andpafalysis produced 
by the terrific Allied air support effort. The Ger- 
mans had kept their reserves several miles back. 
When the day came only one regiment was able to 
make its way to the assault area. Without suffi- 
cient reinforcements for holding operations, let 
alone a counterattack, the Nazis were unable to 
prevent a complete breakthrough. The airborne 
also aided in the progress of PLUNDER as plan- 
ned by covering the flank of the commandos at 
Wesel and by preventing observed artillery fire at 
British pontoon bridges across the Rhine above 
Bislich, but these effects were insignificant com- 
pared to their success in smashing a hole through 
the German linesjSi^ 

The fact that the Diersfordt area was only three 
miles away from ground troops who had success- 
fully pushed across the Rhine, even before VAR- 
SITY began, undoubtedly facilitated the task of 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 193 

the airborne troops. On the afternoon of D-day 
advance elements of XII Corps eliminated any 
serious threat to their rear by linking up with them 
at several points. That night the guns massed west 
of the Rhine shielded them with a massive barrage 
which not only multiplied their effective firepower, 
but also enabled the airborne artillerymen to con- 
serve their scanty ammunition. While the batteries 
of the 17th Airborne were firing 15 missions, the 
supporting artillery of the Welsh 53 Division 
fired 29.* In terms of rounds the disparity was 
probably much greater, since the latter had 88 
guns, and the American airborne had only 42 in 
action out of the 51 they had brought with them. 65 
Finally, the arrival of ground reinforcements, par- 
ticularly tanks, on D plus 1 , enabled the airborne 
to exploit their initial success to the full. 

All concerned agreed that the air side of the 
operation had gone with remarkable smoothness 
and that General Williams and his command de- 
served great praise. Of 540 planeloads of para- 
troops every stick had been brought to the combat 
area and less than 1 percent of the troops had 
been brought back because of sickness, accidents," 
wounds, or refusals. Of 908 American gliders, 
about two-thirds of which were in double-tow, all 
but 23, or 2.5 percent, reached the Rhine despite 
windy, turbulent weather. Of the British gliders 
36 or 8.2 percent of their quota of 440 failed to; 
get there. Although this figure might have been 
lower if they had had substitute aircraft available, 
one may infer that it was easier to manage Wacos 
in double-tow than a Horsa in single tow. Whether 
the difference lay in the size of the British gliders, 
the greater prop-wash of 38 Group's four-engine 
planes, or some other factor is an open question. 

Route, schedule, and tactics had proved sound. 
Not one pilot had failed to follow the simple, well- 
marked course to the IP. The 43 serials had flown' 
from 23 bases spread over an area which was 
about 300 miles long and divided by the English 
Channel. They reached their destination in proper 
sequence within 10 minutes of schedule, in spite of 
their adherence to specified air speeds f instead of 
arrival times. Some flaws there were. The con- 
fusion created by the crisscross of the 313th 
Group at Wavre might possibly have been avoided. 

*The fire of the British artillery was controlled by radio in- 
structions from forward observers who had gone in with the 
airborne infantry battalions. 

tSeven different air speeds had been prescribed, each for a 
different type of formation. 

Probably the Waco serials would have been able 
to keep better formation had their time intervals 
been slightly longer and their prescribed flying 
speed five miles an hour faster — adjustments which 
might well have been made before the operation 
had there been even one realistic, large-scale glider 

The accuracy of the drops and landings in VAR- 
SITY waTmuch better than in NEPTUNE or even 
in MARKET. Except for IVi sticks of paratroops 
dropped west of the Rhine and less than a score 
of gliders, all appear to have come within about 
two miles of their zones and most within a mile 
of them. 

However, the low visibility contributed to some 
serious errors. Exposure to smoke during the last 
three to five miles of their flight caused three 
paratroop serials to make their drops approxi- 
mately two miles north of their true zones. It is 
of course possible that they were off course before 
reaching the Rhine, but then they could have cor- 
rected themselves by the Eureka beacons at the IP 
and on the west side of the river. The visual aids 
on the riverbank were at times obscured by the 
smoke; the M/F beacons performed erratically 
and were not much relied on; but the Eurekas were 
working beautifully at an average range of 16 miles 
with no jamming or failure. 

Beyond the Rhine the leaders of the paratroop 
serials had to judge their position by visual naviga- 
tion, compass, and Gee. The most likely culprit 
for the three inaccurate drops is visual navigation, 
since in the smoke and haze east of the river mis- 
takes in observation would be easy to make and 
hard to check. The wind was stronger than pre- 
dicted, but hardly enough so to cause significant 
deflection from course between the Rhine and 
the drop zones. Gee was reported to have worked 
very well. Signals from the Ruhr and Reims 
chains came in strong and clear at all points on 
the route. Although the enemy used both jamming 
and decoy signals as countermeasures, the latter 
were easily recognized, and the former were dis- 
posed of in most cases by employment of the anti- 
jamming switch or by shifting from one chain to 
the other. However, Gee signals were not easy 
to interpret precisely, especially under combat 
conditions. Two of the three inaccurate paratroop 
serials had special grounds for error. The lead 
plane of the 313th Group had been set afire soon 
after crossing the Rhine, a circumstance likely to 

194 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

interfere with accurate navigation, and the path- 
finder serial had tried to use the new Minister Gee 
chain for which they had not yet received charts 
and may thereby have gotten a bad fix. Whatever 
the causes of deflection, it is evident that the prob- 
lem of ensuring accuracy in an airborne mission 
was still not fully solved. 08 

With the exception of one serial, the concentra- 
tion and pattern of the paratroop drops ranged 
from good to excellent. It is significant that the 
507th PIR was able to assemble 90 percent of its) 
strength within an hour and a half and the 513th 1 
did almost as well, although both had had to 
spend much time and effort in fighting during the 
period of assembly. Indeed, since they were drop- 
ped in the presence of strong enemy forces, good 
initial concentration had been a prerequisite to 
Iheir success. The formation flying which pro- 
duced that concentration deserves praise, but with 
the qualifications that it was done by daylight and 
that during the approach to the zones little resist- 
ance was encountered. 

The glider serials were more accurate but less 
orderly than the paratroop formations. Except 
for about four flights and a handful of individuals, 
all seem to have released their gliders over or very 
near their proper zones. Ragged formations, over- 
running of some serials by those behind them, and 
a general tendency of rear elements to climb to 
avoid prop wash produced considerable confusion, 
with American gliders being released at altitudes 
varying from 500 to 2,500 feet and British gliders 
at 2,500 to 3,500 feet. This situation coupled 
with the inability of the glider pilots to get a good 
view of the terrain until they were below the 200- 
foot level prevented a majority from landing in 
their assigned fields and caused dispersion all over 
the landing zones and the adjoining area. Enough 
gliders were able to land in sequence in the proper 
spot to show that it could be done, given a good 
release and the luck to sight a few landmarks on 
the way down. It should also be said that, espe- 
cially on LZ S, the units that were well concen- 
trated on landing played a disproportionately 
important part in the early stages of the fighting. 

The extreme inflammability of the C-46's pushed 
their loss rate (including salvaged craft) to an 
unhealthy 28 percent. No doubt some C-47's were 
saved from fire by their new self-sealing fuel tanks. 
Yet the ratio of losses to damage among C-47's 
was almost exactly what it had been in MAR- 

KET.* A substantial proportion of the American 
losses, though not of the damage, was caused by a 
few light flak batteries which by camouflage or 
movement had escaped the preliminary anti-flak 
effort. Such guns were probably responsible for 
the heavy losses among planes dropping troops on 
DZ B. Had that one trouble spot been removed 
and no C-46's been used, IX TCC might have 
lost less" than 2 percent of its planes. Had the 
Germans had a few more batteries in action and 
the troop carrier command been fully equipped 
with C-46's, VARSITY could have been extremely 
costly. So delicate is the balance in airborne 

The over-all cost of VARSITY was moderate, 
7 British troop carrier aircraft destroyed, 46 
American craft destroyed (plus 9 salvaged), and 
15 of the bombers in the resupply mission de- 
stroyed. Damaged were 32 British craft, 339 
from IX TCC, and 104 of the bombers. The loss 
ratios for planes crossing the Rhine were 1.7, 5.0, 
and 6.4 percent, and damage ratios 8, 31, and 44 
percent. However, only 100 of IX TCC's planes 
needed 3d or 4th echelon repair. The rest had 
received minor damage, mainly from small arms. 

The British attributed their comparative im- 
punity to keeping above an altitude of 2,500 feet, 
out of effective range of small-arms fire. At that 
height, too, they may have been shielded by the 
smoke, and perhaps they benefitted from German 
gunners' instructions to concentrate on low-flying 
planes and gliders. That height was a protection 
is confirmed by the fact that the high-flying Ameri- 
can glider serials over LZ N had even smaller 
losses than the British and that the low-flying 
resupply mission suffered worst of all. 

Flak neutralization had, as in MARKET, been 
difficult but on the whole successful. Interdiction 
and close support had worked wonders, and the 
British FVCP's had proved the value of having 
fighter control teams with the airborne. Perhaps 
the most brilliant achievement of the Allied air 
forces was the complete neutralization of the Luft- 
waffe on its own home ground. Less than 20 
German planes came within sight of the troop ; 

*The 313th Group did not have sSlFsealing tanks. It ap- 
pears that a majority of the other groups in the command had 
them, but the author has not found any statement of the num- 
ber installed before VARSITY. Although 599 such tanks had 
been received by the end of February, a large proportion of 
them needed modification. Only 76 had been installed as of 
5 March. (Hist IX TCC, Jan-Feb 45, Pt VIII, Sec 5 and 6.) 

Varsity — Airborne Assault Across Rhine 

Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 195 

carrier formations, and there is no evidence that 
any of them were able to make a kill or even a 
pass. The weather for once had been on the side 
of the Allies. Five days of clear skies, an extra-, 
ordinary phenomenon for that time and place, had 
enabled them to use their aerial superiority to the 
full. However, the planners had been careful to 

allow leeway for bad weather, and, thanks to the 
concentration of the airborne missions and initial 
resupply within a four-hour period, any two con- 
secutive favorable days between the 23d and 28th 
of March would have sufficed for the execution of 
PLUNDER, VARSITY, and all essential support- 
ing operations. 


Conclusions Regarding Large-Scale Airborne 


THE MOST IMPORTANT lesson taught by 
VARSITY, MARKET, and airborne opera- 
tions in NEPTUNE was that airborne assaults on a 
corps scale could be successfully executed, some- 
thing which had been serjousjy doubtedjterjhe 
painful experiences in Sicily. While in Normandy 
ana~Holland*th*e"Iift bid to~be spread over several 
days, that for the Rhine crossing was concentrated 
into a four-hour period, greatly increasing the im- 
pact of the assault, and reducing escort require- 
ments and the risk that bad weather would ground 
important elements of the force. It also freed the 
airborne troops from the need to keep a large part 
of their men guarding drop and landing zones for 
subsequent missions. 

In all three cases troop carrier resources were 
stretched to the limit. However, had IX TCC 
been fully equipped with C-46's in time for VAR- 
SITY, it could have added a third division to the 
two actually carried on D-day. Larger planes 
would also have reduced the number of bases 
needed to accomplish a given lift. Lack of forward 
bases was a grave handicap to MARKET and 
caused a very awkward dispersal of the take-off 
fields in VARSITY. On the other hand, it was 
much easier to find bases suitable for the C-47, 
which could take off within 3,000 feet from an 
unsurfaced runway, than it was for four-engined 
aircraft or even for the C-46. This was why a 
dozen fields in France could be allotted to Ameri- 
can troop carrier units at a time when none were 
available for the converted heavy bombers of 38 

Massive paratroop assaults in MARKET and 
VARSITY had achieved a success which disarmed 
criticism. The principal doctrinal change in that 

field was the reaction against night paratroop 
operations after NEPTUNE. The dissatisfaction 
of both troop carrier and airborne leaders was 
focused on the means of supplying and reinforc- 
ing the paratroops. The principal means of rein- 
forcement and of bringing in heavy equipment 
was the glider, a neglected step-child which had 
never been popular. 

Gliders used up s hipping spac e, c luttered up 
airfields, de teriorated rapidly and were destroyed 
by hundreds in sto rms. They required l arge num - 
b ers of glider pilo ts and gli der mechanics, un as- 
similated specialists whose presence created prob- 
lems of employment and morale within the troop 
carrier squadrons.* Glider operations were in- 
herently wasteful in that they required two aircra ft 
and t wo crews to do the work of on e. To keep 
gliders u nder contro l and in close formation re- 
quired good light and al most perfect we ather. 
Glider missions occupied abo ut 50 percent- more 
ai r spac e and mov ed 30 to 40 mi les an hour more 
slowly than equivalent paratroop formations. Dur- 
ing the tow , in landing , and immediately _after 
landing, gliders were much more v ul nerable than 
paratroops, hence their relegation to follow-up 
missions rather than to the initial assaults. Fur- 
thermore, experience had shown that in most com - 
bat operation s at least 80 percen t, of the gliders 

"If the glider pilots had been organized in separate groups, 
as was done on a provisional basis in the Mediterranean Thea- 
ter they would have been able to follow a coherent and con- 
tinuous training program of their own, working with whatever 
troop carrier, units were engaged in glider training and spend- 
ing slack periods on realistic infantry practice instead of stag- 
nating during the long periods when the squadrons they were 
assigned to were preoccupied with non-glider activities. The 
advantage of permanently teaming tug and glider pilots to- 
gether was in practice largely lost in every big operation by 
massive shifts of glider pilots from units not scheduled for 
glider missions to others that were. 



Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 197 

used would have to be written off afterwards as 
destroyed or irrecover able. 

In rebuttal it should be said that the light, dur- 
able Waco had certain advantages that other types 
of assault craft have not achieved after 10 years 
of postwar experimentation. It could land safely 
in smaller, rougher fields than an assault plane. 
It had no engine to hit, no fuel to catch fire. It 
could be towed at twice the speed of present-day 
helicopters. Above all, it could be produced in 
great numbers for as little as $15,000 apiece. 
One wonders whether the Allies would have ac- 
cepted the cost and the risk of crash-landing a 
thousand assault planes among the swamps and 
hedge-rows of Normandy or of setting down a 
thousand helicopters within point-blank range of 
enemy guns as they did gliders in VARSITY. 
Gliders did those difficult and dangerous jobs ac- 
ceptably and could be assigned to do them in the 
reassuring certainty that they were expendable. 
The British even dared to use their gliders for 
coups de main against bridges and other key 
objectives and found them very satisfactory for 
the purpose. 

One drawback of the American gliders was their 
small size. Instead of the Waco with its 3,750- 
pound load the airborne wanted a glider which 
would carry a truck or a 155-mm. howitzer. By 
the end of the war they were thinking in terms of 
gliders with 4, 6 and even 8-ton payloads. How- 
ever, no large gliders except the CG-13A (which 
proved unfit for tactical operations) was sent over- 
seas or even placed in production by the United 
States during World War II. Even if a suitable 
glider in the 4-ton class had been available the 
C-47 would probably have been incapable of tow- 
ing it. The Americans might have made some use 
of the Horsa in MARKET and more in VAR- 
SITY, but their experience in Normandy with 
its brittleness and other peculiarities seems to have 
given both troop carriers and airborne a lasting 
prejudice against it. 

Resupply by parachute avoided the difficulties 
of a glider tow and the hazards of a glider landing, 
but it was inefficient and wasteful. A C-47 capable 
of carrying about three tons could deliver little 
more than a ton by parachute from its pararacks 
or in bundles pitched out its side door. Installation 
of conveyor belts in the cabin was helpful in han- 
dling bundles but such conveyors did not go into 
production in the United States until the spring of 

1945. Moreover, the bundles had to be small to 
get out the door or fit the pararacks. Even the 75- 
mm. howitzer had to be broken down into several >? 
parts to be dropped. New techniques were on the 
horizon. The British had used parachute clusters 
to drop whole jeeps and artillery pieces from the 
bomb bays of Halifaxes. However, even with them 
the dropping of heavy equipment was still in the 
experimental stage. Not until after the war, when 
they received the C-82 with its big cargo door in 
the rear, were the American troop carriers able to 
make such drops. 

Further weaknesses of parachute resupply were 
inaccuracy and dispersion. Supplies were rarely 
dropped with precision by either the British or the 
Americans and were usually scattered over several 
miles of ground. The task of collecting the scat- 
tered bundles was difficult and hazardous. Gen- 
eral Gavin estimated after MARKET that to get 
proper recovery of the supplies dropped for his 
division in that operation he would have had to 
put a third of his force on supply detail, something 
not usually practicable in the presence of the 
enemy. Even after a vigorous collection program 
under relatively favorable conditions as in VAR- 
SITY at least 20 percent of the bundles would 
probably be lost. A force hemmed in by the enemy 
as the British were at Arnhem might recover very 
little of what was dropped for them. For instance, 
on D plus 1, in MARKET, 1 Airborne Division 
got more supplies from three bulk-loaded Hamil- 
car gliders than it did from a parachute drop by 33 
four-engined aircraft. 

The use of B-24 bombers for resupply was a 
valuable supplement to the American troop carrier 
effort in MARKET and VARSITY. However, it 
was equally wasteful in that the big aircraft capable 
of carrying six tons of bombs could deliver less 
than 2Vi tons in a parachute drop. Also, the 
bombers had to be withdrawn from their primary 
mission several days before an operation for 
modification, loading and other preparations. The 
performance of the bomber crews was roughly 
similar to that of the troop carriers, but their loss 
rate was relatively high. With more experience 
in resupply work they might have reduced their 
losses by shifting to drops from medium altitude or 
by other changes in tactics, such as avoidance of 
climbing turns after completion of their drops. 

The value of airborne forces striking close be- 
hind enemy lines to pave the way for a ground 

198 — Airborne Operatic >js in World War II, European Theater 


assault was demonstrated in Normandy and again 
on the Rhine. In Holland an attempt to employ 
them in a more independent role some 60 miles 
beyond the front failed, but by so narrow a margin 
as to indicate that such ventures were feasible. 
Had German strength and dispositions been as 
expected, MARKET would almost certainly have 
been a decisive victory. As it was, success would 
probably have been achieved had the British air- 
borne picked zones close to their objective, had 
the weather been favorable on D plus 2, and had 
the British ground forces advanced more aggres- 

Many people, including General Arnold, felt 
that more and bigger airborne operations should 
have been attempted. 1 The reasons why more 
were not made are many and complex. Assuredly 
it was not for lack of eagerness on the part of 
Airborne Army and the airborne planners who 
preceded it. Dozens of plans were made which 
never won SHAEF approval, and over a dozen 
were cancelled after reaching the stage of detailed 

Much of the time the means for a large airborne 
mission were not available. During periods of 
heavy fighting as in Normandy, Holland, and the 
Ardennes, airborne divisions were kept at the 
front for months at a time and when relieved were 
in need of recuperation and retraining. For this 
reason the three weeks before MARKET and the 
month before VARSITY were the only times after 
the invasion of Normandy when a three-division 
operation would have been possible. Whenever 
a breakthrough did occur, the leaders of the ad- 
vancing armies clamored for air supply to the 
exclusion of all airborne operations, regardless of 
the needs of other ground commanders. Thus 
Third Army bitterly opposed Montgomery's re- 
quest for MARKET and later did the same to 
Seventh Army's request for EFFECTIVE. 

When plans were made to exploit a victory by 
airborne action, the final planning and preparations 
were usually so slow and the objectives so close 
to the front that advancing ground troops reached 
the area before the missions were launched. The 
resultant cancellations represented a great waste 
of time and effort at critical moments. To some 
extent this was inevitable. Large operations did 
require time for preparation. It was risky, as 
MARKET proved, to strike far beyond the front 
on the assumption that an advance would con- 

tinue. On the other hand, the rewards of success 
in a venture like MARKET might be complete 
and final victory, a prize worth gambling for. It 
should also have been possible to pre-package 
small missions in readiness to seize key points on 
short notice ahead of the most rapid ground 
thrust.* After all, a regiment had been dropped 
at Salerno on less than 12-hours notice, under 
difficulties greater than usually prevailed in the 

Another factor which limited the use of the air- 
borne and made ground commanders reluctant 
to rely on them was weather. Even paratroop 
missions could not risk a 20-mile wind or low 
clouds at the drop zone. Stormy weather was a 
major factor in the defeat of the airborne in 
Holland, almost grounded them in the invasion 
of Normandy, and was a source of worry to the 
planners of VARSITY. Purely local and tempo- 
rary weather conditions could have serious results. 
Such phenomena were the cloudbank over the 
Normandy coast that scattered the first four mis- 
sions in NEPTUNE, and the pall of smoke hang- 
ing over the objectives in VARSITY. To avert 
such unpleasant surprises, systematic weather 
reconnaissance was provided during MARKET 
and VARSITY, and periodic weather reports were 
sent out during VARSITY by radio teams with 
the airborne. Such warnings might make it pos- 
sible to avoid unfavorable conditions, but sooner 
or later in all three of IX TCC's airborne opera- 
tions the command had to accept marginal 
weather, and that acceptance usually brought 
trouble in its wake. 

Clouds might disperse formations; wind could 
render gliders unmanageable; but the greatest 
weather hazard was low visibility, since not merely 
the success of the mission but the survival of the 
airborne troops depended on the accuracy with 
which they were delivered. When, as on the first 
day of MARKET, the fliers could see their route 
and observe panels and smoke signals set out by 
pathfinders on the drop zones, they could carry 
out a most exacting mission with more than suffi- 
cient accuracy. When they could not see their 
way, they were inaccurate because they had to de- 
pend on two unreliable guides, dead reckoning and 

*One or two such operations were planned in the closing 
weeks of the war, but the only one carried out was AMHERST, 
a harassing operation in Holland executed on the night of 7 
April by 38 Group, RAF, and French troops of the Special 
Air Service (a kind of air commando organization) . (Air Min- 
istry, A.H.B. Airborne Forces, 1951, pp. 199-203.) 


Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 199 

radar. The troop carriers had learned the pitfalls 
of dead reckoning as early as TORCH and never 
relied on it thereafter when they could help it. 
Radar, although helpful, had serious limitations. 

Responsor beacons to mark points in hostile 
territory had to be set up by agents, partisans or 
pathfinders. Such episodes as the Lindemans 
case* show that the first two methods involved a 
grave risk of discovery or betrayal. Preliminary 
pathfinder flights also reduced the chance of sur- 
prise for the main force. In addition, pathfinder 
planes might be shot down, as happened in Hol- 
land, or miss the zone by a wide margin, as some 
did in the invasion of southern France; and path- 
finder troops might be neutralized by ertemy action 
after reaching the gprnnd, as many were in Nor- 
mandy and most would have been in VARSITY, 
had they been used. The Rebecca-Eureka beacon, 
in standard use by the troop carriers had a range 
of less than 30 miles at the altitudes below 2,500 
feet which were usually flown in airborne missions. 
More serious was the difficulty in making precise 
readings of the Rebecca scope when near the 
beacon. This made the normal margin of error 
with that equipment greater than a mile. 

Certain airborne radars, including the SCR-717, 
produced a rough map of the terrain on a scope. 
Since only coastlines and large cities showed up 
well, such instruments were of limited value in 
airborne operations. The SCR-717 did prove help- 
ful in making an accurate landfall in NEPTUNE 
and in MARKET. 

A third type of radar (or radio) was used to 
establish the position of a plane in relation to a 
chain of stations in friendly territory. The British 
system of this type known as Gee was used by all 
airborne missions in the ETO. However, the ef- 
fectiveness of Gee depended on the skill of the 
navigator reading it, the plane's distance from the 
stations, and, especially, the plane's azimuth. Since 
Gee chains were bulky and complex installations, 
requiring months to establish, airborne operations 
which were small or were flown on short notice 
would seldom have a Gee chain ideally situated 
for their use. Thus, although in theory Gee could 
be accurate to within 100 yards, it was rarely 
precise to within a mile in operations. In AM- 
HERST the average Gee error was over three 
miles, and this was condoned as inevitable. 2 

Except in unusually open country a small error 

*See above, p. 117. 

might put the airborne on dangerous ground or 
place difficult obstacles in their path. Notable 
examples would be the drop of paratroops in 
NEPTUNE into the swamps of the Merderet and 
on the far side of the Douve. Apart from these 
risks the difficulty of a contested advance across 
unfamiliar terrain made it likely that every mile of 
inaccuracy would cost hours of delay in reaching 
the objectives. Thus, although radar could remedy 
gross errors, it was not sufficiently precise to justify 
sending airborne missions in darkness or low 
visibility if that possibly could be avoided. 

Another consideration restricting the employ? 
ment of airborne forces was their vulnerability, 
both in the air and on the ground. This vulner- 
ability is indicated in the case of the troop carriers 
not by the over-all losses, which were kept so low 
as to make pessimists like Leigh-Mallory seem 
absurd, but by the way loss rates shot up on occas- 
sions when something went wrong. 

In every airborne operation in the European 
Theater the combined losses of British and Ameri- 
can troop carrier aircraft were less than 4 percent 
of those employed; less than 2 percent of the crews 
were killed or missing; and less than 1 percent of 
the troops were shot down or incapacitated by 
enemy action before they jumped or their glider 
was released.* On the other hand, some forma- 
tions in each operation were very roughly handled. 
In several instances exposure for two or three 
minutes to light flak and small arms fire caused 
the loss of between 10 and 20 percent of the planes 
exposed. One small British mission attacked by 
German fighters lost 20 percent of its aircraft. 

The degree of air superiority which enabled the 
United States and Great Britain to send 10,000 
sorties over France and western Germany on the 
day of VARSITY while the Luftwaffe could make 
less than 100 sorties against them made it possible 
to protect an airborne mission very thoroughly. 
It was standard procedure to destroy or neutralize 
enemy airfields within fighter range, set up perime- 
ter patrols to intercept fighters flying in from out- 
lying areas, and provide the troop carrier forma- 
tions with extensive escort or area cover to dis- 
pose of the few foes who might manage to ap- 

*Planes were seldom much exposed to enemy fire before ap- 
proaching their objectives, so if they were hit short of the as- 
sault area the pilot could usually coax them to it and deliver 
his troops. More than half the crew members who bailed out 
or crash-landed were saved by the proximity of Allied troops, 
the efficiency of the Air Sea Rescue Service, or the assistance of 
friendly civilians, particularly the Dutch underground in MAR- 

200 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 


proach them. Except for the one episode in MAR- 
KET when defensive measures were in abeyance it 
is doubtful whether German fighters ever got close 
enough to an Allied airborne mission to make a 
pass at it. 

If an air attack was deadly but preventable, 
ground fire, other than heavy flak, which the troop 
carriers carefully avoided, was indecisive but 
galling. In VARSITY missions were flown in 
broad daylight right over the enemy's main line of 
defense with quite moderate losses in most cases. 
A C-47 could take hundreds of bullets and keep 
flying. Light flak was much more dangerous than 
small arms. The guns were mobile, hard to locate, 
and dangerous to attack. Anti-flak operations in 
MARKET almost ruined two good fighter groups, 
and even in VARSITY, where the area to be 
neutalized was relatively small, the batteries few 
in number, and the weather favorable, such opera- 
tions were only moderately successful. In the lat- 
ter operation some troop carrier formations suf- 
fered severe losses in passing over a handful of 
20-mm. batteries which had survived all efforts to 
suppress them. Thus, even though light flak 
could theoretically be neutralized, its presence in 
quantity was a strong deterrent. 

Airborne troops were most vulnerable immedi- 
ately after arrival on the ground. Paratroops 
could be picked off while they were still dispersed 
and shaken. Gliders made splendid targets for 
mortars and machine guns. Even the low-grade, 
defeatist forces encountered in VARSITY made 
the period of initial assembly difficult and costly. 
Kgsselring later expressed the opinion that had 
they been first-rate troops the operation would 
not have succeeded. On the other hand, drop 
or landing zones which, like those in MARKET, 
were virtually undefended, could seldom be found 
near really valuable objectives, and the long dis- 
tance between zones and objectives at Arnhem 
proved a fatal barrier to success. At Ste Mere 
Eglise, the Grave bridge, and a score of other 
places it was proven that by far the best way for 
the lightly armed airborne troops to take an ob- 
jective was to rush it before a strong defense could 
be organized. The question was whether the air- 
borne could be delivered within quick striking dis- 
tance without suffering defeat or crippling losses 
during assembly and unloading. 

A second weakness was vulnerability to counter- 
attacks supported by tanks and armor. Once the 

airborne troops were assembled, their fighting 
qualities made them a match for superior numbers 
of infantry and for almost any amount of militia. 
They showed remarkable ability to dispose of indi- 
vidual tanks and guns. However, their extremely 
limited firepower could be outmatched by a com- 
paratively small artillery concentration, and they 
were altogether unable to cope with panzer divi- 
sions in the open field. That was demonstrated at 
Arnhem, when the crack troops of 1 Airborne 
Division were terribly mauled by depleted, war- 
weary panzer units. 

Sometimes, as in VARSITY and the last stages 
of MARKET, ground artillery could provide a 
protective barrage for the airborne. Also in VAR- 
SITY, interdiction and close air support proved 
effective means to prevent counterattacks. How- 
ever, there was the chance in any operation far 
beyond the front that the artillery would not get 
within range and that supporting air units would 
be grounded or rendered ineffective by unfavorable 
weather. These considerations help to explain why 
no serious consideration was given in the ETO to 
any airborne operation in which the ground forces 
were not scheduled to make contact with the air- 
borne within three days, nor to any in which the 
airborne troops were expected to encounter con- 
siderable numbers of tanks before ground rein- 
forcements reached them. Violation of these rules 
in MARKET was not intentional but the result of 
faulty intelligence and errors of judgment. 

Another way to give the airborne the firepower 
they needed was to establish an airhead, that is, to 
seize an airfield on which to land reinforcements 
and supplies. The C-47 mission to the Grave 
landing strip on D plus 9 in MARKET showed 
that this kind of mission was perfectly feasible on 
a small scale with small planes. It doubled the 
payload carried in parachute resupply and elimi- 
nated dispersion, loss, and drop damage. It also 
eliminated use of the glider with all its overhead 
and tactical inefficiency. 

However, the defense and maintenance of an 
independent airhead required a very massive lift, 
able to handle many more and bigger guns that had 
hitherto been assigned to the airborne, other heavy 
items, particularly engineer equipment, and a re- 
supply level of some 400 tons (mainly ammuni- 
tion) per division per day, instead of the 250 tons 
which had been customary. Such an operation 
called for big planes, long, hard-surfaced runways 


Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater — 201 

to receive them, and specially equipped supply 
units. Except for fewer than 200 C-46's acquired 
near the end of the war, IX TCC had to rely en- 
tirely on the relatively small C-47. Large airfields 
were usually well defended if in good condition 
and, once destroyed, required extensive reconstruc- 
tion operations. As for airhead supply units, the 
Americans had nothing of the sort, and the British 
experimental unit known as AFDAG was allowed 
to disintegrate after MARKET. 

Assuming that an airhead was established, it 
would have to be firmly held. A breakthrough like 
those achieved by the Germans around Veghel 
during MARKET would probably mean disaster. 
Indeed, the operation would be imperilled if the 
enemy simply got near enough to the airfield to 
place observed artillery fire on it or to rake mis- 
sions with close-range antiaircraft fire during land- 
ing or take-off. The report of the 101st Division 
on MARKET expressed the opinion that in an air- 
head operation one entire airborne division would 
be needed exclusively for the defense of one air- 
field. Also, normal fighter escort and cover would 
have to be extended to protect the airfield at all 
times, especially during the hours of unloading. 
Despite these considerations, FAAA did toy with 
the idea of engaging in independent airhead opera- 
tions far beyond the front, but the tactical and 
logistical problems involved were such as to cause 
the rejection or shelving of most such projects at 
an early stage.* 

The only enterprise of this kind to approach 
completion was EFFECTIVE, a plan to put down 
the 13th Airborne Division near Bisingen, a vil- 
lage about 30 miles south of Stuttgart, seize an 
airfield, and establish an airhead over 50 miles in 
the rear of the German forces opposing Seventh 
Army in the Black Forest area. On 9 April 1945 
SHAEF tentatively approved the operation and 
ordered completion of detailed plans. A week 
later, Seventh Army, which was still facing stub- 
born resistance, announced that it wanted EFFEC- 
TIVE. SHAEF agreed to set 22 April as the 
target date. Once again an airborne attack was 
forestalled by German collapse. On the 18th a 

*One spectacular plan which died an early death was that 
for ARENA. The objective of this operation was the seizure 
by four airborne divisions of an area near Kassel containing 
several airfields to which several infantry regiments would sub- 
sequently be transported by air. The plan involved as many as 
2,500 air landings and 1,000 parachute resupply sorties a day. 
(SHAEF G-3, Operation ARENA GCT/370-44/Plans, 2d 
Draft, 15 Mar 45, in 505.61-3.) 

breakthrough by armored units ensured the en- 
circlement of the Black Forest region, and late on 
the 19th EFFECTIVE was cancelled. 3 

After dwelling on the limitations and vulnera- 
bility of the airborne forces, it is well to emphasize 
that these were comparable to those of amphibious 
forces, except perhaps in the field of logistics. If 
lift for three divisions was hard to find before 
OVERLORD, assault boats for five divisions were 
even harder to get.* Storms could halt amphibious 
operations on an unsheltered coast about as easily 
as they did airborne and resupply missions. The 
June gales in Normandy proved that. While troop 
carrier navigation was not precise, it compares 
reasonably well with that of the naval forces which 
missed UTAH Beach by a mile and a half. Vul- 
nerable as the airborne were during delivery and 
assembly, their worst initial losses were paralleled 
by the casualties in certain amphibious assaults, f 
Even in ability to cope with counterattack, the 
record of the three airborne divisions in MARKET 
compared favorably with that of the three beach- 
landed divisions which were bottled up at Anzio. 
Any airborne operation larger than a raid required 
air superiority, but throughout the war that was a 
prerequisite, not only for amphibious operations, 
but for all ground offensives, except perhaps the 
German drive in the Ardennes. 

At the end of World War II airborne and troop 
carrier commanders alike were convinced that air- 
borne operations would play an important part 
in future wars. However, there were good reasons 
for qualifying such opinions. In a major war such 
operations could be no more than auxiliary to tra- 
ditional ground warfare until airborne forces 
gained the firepower and logistical capabilities to 
maintain themselves for long periods against first- 
rate opposition. As General Gavin put it "We 
have . . . barely begun to solve the problems of 
airborne transport and equipment." 4 Today many 
of those problems have been solved. More serious 
was the fact that without air superiority, airborne 
warfare involved excessive risk. To ensure superi- 
ority fighter planes and bombers would have to 

* Moreover, troop carrier aircraft could be moved from thea- 
ter to theater for an assault within a few days, as was done for 
DRAGOON, while landing craft took months to assemble. 

tBy far the heaviest initial losses by Allied airborne divisions 
were in Normandy where the 82d Division had 156 men killed, 
756 missing, and 347 wounded on D-day, and the 101st had 
182 killed, 501 missing, and 557 wounded in that time. The 2d 
Marine Division had 913 killed and missing and 2,037 wounded 
during its assault on Tarawa. (Harrison, Cross-Channel At- 
tack, pp. 284, 300; R. W. Shugg and H. A. DeWeerd, World 
War II [Washington, 19461, P- 242.) 

202 — Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater 


receive priority over troop carriers in the postwar 
budget. Finally — and most important of all to the 
future of airborne warfare — the advent of the 
atomic bomb, by giving strategic bomber forces 
the power to win a war overnight, threatened to 
render all other means of warfare secondary, if 

not superfluous. Although the role of airborne 
forces in an atomic war is still in dispute, their 
value in non-atomic warfare under suitable condi- 
tions was demonstrated in World War II — and is 
certainly much greater now than it was when they 
flew to victory in VARSITY. 


Chapter I 

1. Gordon A. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack (Wash- 
ington, 1951), p. 47; Hq 8th AF, Flow Chart 5 
Apr 43, in USAFHD 505.24-1A. (Unless otherwise 
noted, documents cited in this study are identified by 
their file number in USAFHD.) 

Z. Frederick E. Morgan, Overture to OVERLORD 
(Garden City, 1950), pp 27, 29, 41; Hq AEAF, 
Historical Data, US Component Allied Expeditionary 
Air Force, in 505.24-1A. 

3. W. F. Craven and J. L. Cate, The Army Air Forces 
in World War II, II (Chicago, 1949), 635-37; CCS 
244/1, ann IV, app A, 25 May 43 (excerpt) in 
USAFHD files; Hq 8th AF, Flow Chart, 5 Apr 43 
(pencilled note "Brought to U.K. by Stratemeyer."); 
ltr, Brig Gen R. C. Candee, CG VIII ASC, to CG 
8th AF, subj: Flow Chart for Tactical Air Force, 15 
May 43; Hq VIII ASC, Tactical Air Force Tentative 
Proposed Troop Basis Amended, 24 May 43, all 
above in 505.13-5; Hq VIII ASC Tactical Air Force 
Tentative Proposed Troop Basis, 21 May 43, in 
505.13-4 (see also table, same title and date in 

505.13- 5). 

4. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, pp 72-75, 183; min 
of COSSAC Staff Confs, 2, 9, and 23 Jul 43, in 
505.10-7; COSSAC(43) 28, App O, Operation 
"OVERLORD" Airborne Forces, 15 Jul 43, in 

505.14- 3; COSSAC(43) 32 (Final), Digest of Oper- 
ation "OVERLORD," 27 Jul 43, in 505.12-7; 
COSSAC(43) 36, Transport Aircraft and Gliders 
for Operations "OVERLORD," 28 Jul 43; memo for 
C/AS et al from Lt Col S. R. Richards, subj: Euro- 
pean Theater Troop Carrier Requirements, 17 Aug 
43, in 505.14-2; ltr, AM T. Leigh-Mallory, CG 
AEAF, to AOC-in-C Br TAF and CG 9th AF, subj: 
Preparation of Tactical Air Forces for Operation 
"OVERLORD," 6 Oct 43, in 505.33-11; Hq AEAF, 
Airborne Forces and Air Supply in Operation 
"OVERLORD" and "RANKIN," Position as of the 
12th October 1943, 18 Oct 43, in 505.14-23; ltr, Air 
C-in-C AEAF to AOC 2d TAF and CG 9th AF, 
Directive to Tactical Air Forces Operation "OVER- 
LORD," 6 Dec 43, in 505.25-31; memo for CG AAF 
from Brig Gen G. C. Jamison, subj: Troop Carrier 
Requirements First Half 1944, 29 Dec 43, in 
USAFHD files; msg OP 544, MAAF Adv to CG 
12th AF and CG XII TCC, 8 Jan 44, in 650.1622. 

5. Lecture, Col J. T. Dalbey, C/S Abn Comd, subj: 
Airborne Troops in a Landing Assault, 28 May 43, 
in 502.141; min, COSSAC Staff Conf, 2 Jul 43; min 
of Meeting Held at Norfolk House on August 10th 

[1943] to Discuss Future Policy Relating to the Em- 
ployment of Air Borne Forces, in 505.10-6; Hq 
AEAF, Airborne Forces and Air Supply in Opera- 
tion "OVERLORD," 18 Oct 1943. 

6. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World 
War II, II, 455-6; Air Ministry, A.H.B., Airborne 
Forces (1951), pp. 96-7, 246-49; min of Meeting 
Held at Norfolk House on August 10th (1943) to 
Discuss Future Policy Relating to the Employment 
of Airborne Forces; Hq AEAF, Airborne Forces 
and Air Supply in Operation "OVERLORD," 18 Oct 
43; COSSAC 3140/Sec, Annex, Operation "OVER- 
LORD" Points for Further Investigation as a Result 
of COS(43) 180th Meeting, and JP(43) 260(Final), 
7 Aug 43, in 505.12-7; lecture, Brig Gen P. L. Wil- 
liams, The Airborne Assault Phase of the Sicilian 
Campaign, 17 Aug 43, in 611, 452-1; Lt Col S. R. 
Richards, Capt R. K. Ward and Capt J. L. Morris to 
CG VIII ASC, subj: Board Findings on Towing of 
Horsa Glider with C-47A Airplane, 24 Aug 43, in 
505.14-22; War Cabinet, Chiefs of Staff Committee, 
Airborne Forces, Joint Memorandum by the General 
and Air Staffs, 20 Sep 43, in 505.06-1; NJC5 (Final) 
"Neptune" Zero Hour for the Assault, Covering 
Recommendations by Principal Staff Officers, app D, 
Airborne Considerations, 14 Dec 43; NJC (Final) 
"OVERLORD" The Effect of Weather, 14 Dec 43, 
both in 505.25-2. 

7. Airborne Forces, pp. 107-8; AEAF/MS399/Air 
Plans, Air Plan— Operation "OVERLORD," app B, 
Airborne Tasks, 7 Dec 43, in 505.33-25; min of 
Meeting at AEAF Headquarters, Stanmore, To Dis- 
cuss the Employment of Airborne Forces in Con- 
tinental Operations, 9 Dec 43, in 505.27-11; min of 
Conference Held by Air C-in-C AEAF at Bentley 
Priory, Stanmore, 20 Dec 43, in 505.25-3. 

8. Ltr, Maj Gen L. H. Brereton to Maj Gen I. C. Eaker, 
19 Sep 43, in 519.818. 

9. Hist IX TCC, 16 Oct-Dec 43; Hist 50th TC Wg, 
Oct-Dec 43; Hist 434th TC Gp, 9 Feb-Dec 43; Hist 
435th TC Gp, 25 Feb-Dec 43; Hist 315th TC Gp, 
17 Feb 42-30 Nov 43. 

10. Ltr, Air C-in-C AEAF to AOC 2 TAF and CG 9th 
USAF, subj : Directive to Tactical Air Forces Opera- 
tion "OVERLORD," 6 Dec 43, in 505.25-31; Agenda 
for Meeting of Joint Commanders-in-Chief at St. 
Paul's, 7 Dec 43, in 505.25-2; min of Meeting at 
AEAF Headquarters to Discuss the Employment of 
Airborne Forces in Continental Operations, 9 Dec 
43, in 505.27-11. 

11. Incomplete file of min of Airborne-Air Planning 
Committee AEAF, in 505.27-11. 


12. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World- 
War II, IV, 109-10; ltr, Lt Gen C. Spaatz to CG 9th 
AF, subj: Control of the Ninth Air Force, 24 Feb 
44; ltr, Maj Gen L. H. Brereton, CG 9th AF, to 
Air-C-in-C AEAF, subj: D-Day Fitness of IX Troop 
Carrier Command, 29 Apr 44, both in 505.25-31. 

13. Hq AEAF, Memo Book, in 505.19-1; min of Meet- 
ing Held at AEAF Headquarters to Discuss and 
Agree the Requirements of a Joint Troop Carrier 
Command Post and Operations Room, 19 Feb 44; 
min of 8th and 9th mtgs of Airborne-Air Planning 
Committee AEAF, 14 and 29 Apr 44, both in 505.27- 

14. Morgan, Overture to OVERLORD, pp. 190-91, 203; 
COSSAC(43), 26th and 29th rpts to Sec C/S Com, 
War Cab, 11 Oct and 1 Nov 43, in 505.10-8; memo 
for AEAF Chief of Operations from Lt Col J. H. 
Reynolds, subj: Visit to Airborne Forces Develop- 
ment Center, 24 Dec 43, and 1st ind, Brig Gen A. C. 
Strickland, AEAF Chief of Operations, to Lt Col 

5. Q. Wentz, 1 Jan 44; in 505.33-67. 

J 5. James M. Gavin, Airborne Warfare (Washington, 
1947), pp. 40-42; 21 Army Gp, "NEPTUNE" Study 
No. 5, Tentative Assault Plan (1st draft), 27 Dec 

43, in 506.451-313; AEAF "NEPTUNE" Study No. 

6, Delay of Enemy Reserves (2d draft), 4 Jan 44, 
in 505.34-4. 

16. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, pp. 158, 165-67; 
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe (Garden 
City, 1948), pp. 208, 217; Bernard L. Montgomery, 
Normandy to the Baltic, (Germany, 1946), pp. 5-14; 
Hq 9th AF, Planning Journal, 6 and 7 Jan 44, in 

17. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, pp. 168, 173; min 
of Supreme Commander's Conferences, mtgs 1 and 2, 
21 Jan 44; memo for C-in-C (Air) from Air Com- 
modore, Head of Plans, 23 Jan 44, and Addendum, 
24 Jan 44, all in 505.25-6; Hq AEAF, Operation 
"OVERLORD" initial Joint Plan— Programme of 
Work, 18 Jan 44; NJC 1003 (Revised) Notes on 
Planning Procedure, 15 Jari 44, both in 506.451-313. 

18. Omar N. Bradley, A Soldier's Story (New York, 
1951), p. 232; Gavin, Airborne Warfare, pp. 42-44; 
Hq 9th AF, Planning Journal, 15 Jan 44, in 
533.305C; min of Supreme Commander's Confer- 
ences, mtg 1, 21 Jan 44. 

19. NJC 1004, NEPTUNE— Initial Joint Plan, 1 Feb 44, 
in 533.451; min of mtg (AEAF Air Plans) at Nor- 
folk House, 22 Jan 44, in 505.25-13; min of Supreme 
Commander's Conferences, mtg 3, 24 Jan 44, in 
505.25-6; memo for Col Cole, Dep C/S Plans 9th 
AF, from Maj D. W. Bostwick, 29 Jan 44, in 

• 533.451. 

20. Airborne Forces, pp. 106, 123; Winston S. Churchill, 
Closing the Ring (Boston, 1951), pp. 443, 587-88; 
Hq AAF Plans Div, Daily Activity rpts, 29, 31 Jan 

44, in USAFHD files; min of 6th, 7th, and 8th Con- 

ferences Held by Air C-in-C AEAF, 9, 16, and 23 
Feb 44, in 505.25-3. 

21. Ltr, Gen G. C. Marshall to Gen D. D. Eisenhower, 
12 Feb 44, in 506.451-322B; Hq AAF Plans Div, 
Daily Activity rpts, 7 and 9 Feb 44, in USAFHD 

22. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, pp. 185-86; min of 
Supreme Commander's Conferences, mtg 5, 18 Feb 
44, in 505.25-6. 

23. Bradley, A Soldier's Story, p. 234; min of a Meeting 
at St. Paul's to Discuss the Employment of Airborne 
Forces, 22 Feb 44, in 505.33-67; Hq 9th AF, Plan- 
ning Journal, 23 Feb 44; NEPTUNE— Initial Joint 
Plan, Amdt 1, 2 Mar 44, in 533.451. 

24. Min of 9th AF Commanders' mtg, 3 Mar 44, in 
533.142; journal, IX TCC A-3, 17 Mar 44, in 
546.305; Hq IX TCC, Tactical Air Plan for Opera- 
tion NEPTUNE, 2 May 44, (Annex 12 to 9th AF 
Tactical Air Plan for Operation NEPTUNE) in 
533.451; min of 10th mtg of Airborne-Air Planning 
Committee, 18 May 44, in 505.27-11. 

25. Min of Meeting Held at Norfolk House to Discuss 
the Employment of Airborne Forces in Operation 
OVERLORD, 25 Mar 44, in 505.33-67; Hq AEAF, 
Operation "NEPTUNE" Overall Air Plan, 15 Apr 
44, in 506.451.317; journal, IX TCC A-3, 22 Mar 44. 

26. Min of 7th, 8th, and 9th mtgs of Airborne-Air Plan- 
ning Committee, 14, 19, and 28 Apr 44, in 505.27-11; 
memo for CG AAF from AC/ AS Plans, subj: 
OVERLORD Air Plans, 26 May 44, in 145.96-223C; 
Hq AEAF, Operation "NEPTUNE" Overall Air 
Plan, 15 Apr 44; min of Supreme Commander's 
Conference, mtg 16, 24 Apr 44, in 505.25-6; min of 
9th AF Commanders mtg, 5 May 44, in 533.142. 

27. Hq IX TCC, Tactical Air Plan for Operation NEP- 
TUNE; min of AEAF mtg, 17 May 44, in 506.451- 
322C; min of 10th mtg of Airborne-Air Planning 
Committee, 18 May 44, in 505.27-11; Hq IX TCC 
FO 1, 31 May 44, App D3, in 533.451. 

28. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, pp. 258-60. 

29. Gavin, Airborne Warfare, pp. 46-48; Harrison, 
Cross-Channel Attack, pp. 249-50, 263-64. 

30. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, p. 260; memo for 
Gen Nevins from Air Commodore C. B. Pelly, 
AEAF Head of Plans, 26 May 44; memo for C/S 
SHAEF from Maj Gen H. R. Bull, subj: Implica- 
tion of Reported Enemy Reinforcements of the 
Cotentin Peninsula, 28 May 44, both in 505.33-37. 

31. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, p 186; Gavin, Air- 
borne Warfare, pp. 52-3; R. G. Ruppenthal, UTAH 
Beach to Cherbourg (Washington, 1947), pp. 8-10; 
journal, IX TCC A-2, 26-31 May 44, in 546.604; 
memq for CG AAF from AC/ AS Plans, subj: 
OVERLORD Air Plans, 26 May 44, in 145.96-223C. 

32. Gavin, Airborne Warfare, pp. 47-8, 53. 

33. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, pp. 246-47; Harri- 


son, Cross-Channel Attack, p. 186; min of Supreme 
Commander's Conferences, mtg 20, 29 May 44, in 

34. AC/AS Intelligence Analysis Div, European Br, Sta- 
tus of Air Prerequisites for Operation "OVER- 
LORD," 29 Mar 44, in 142.132; Hq AEAF Opera- 
tion "NEPTUNE" Overall Air Plan, 15 Apr 44; 
Hq IX TCC FO 1, 31 May 44, ann 1. 

35. Hq AEAF, Operation "NEPTUNE" Overall Air 
Plan, 15 Apr 44; journal, IX TCC A-3, 26 Mar, 6, 8, 
12, 16 Apr 44; Hq IX TCC, Tactical Air Plan for 
Operation NEPTUNE, 2 May 44; min of 9th mtg 
of Airborne-Air Planning Committee, 28 Apr 44. 

36. Ltr, Hq AEAF to Distr, subj: Operation "NEP- 
TUNE" — Employment of U.S. Airborne Forces, 31 
May 44, in 505.34-12; memo for Gen Smith from 
Col R. B. Bagby, 31 May 44; ltr, Hq AEAF to Dist, 
subj: Operation "NEPTUNE," U.S. Troop Carrier- 
Airborne Forces, 1 June 44, both in 505.34-12; Hq 
IX TCC FO 1, 31 May 44, app Dl and D3, in 

37. Report by the Allied Naval Commander-in-Chief 
Expeditionary Force on Operation "NEPTUNE," 
Oct 44, in 506.45 1-490A. 

38. Hq AEAF, Signals Report on Operation "NEP- 
TUNE" — Planning and Assault Phase, Jul 44, in 
505.29-32; ltr, Hq AEAF to Distr, subj: Use of IFF 
in Operation "OVERLORD," 10 May 44, in 505.451- 

39. Hist IX TCC, May, Jun 44; Hist 52d TC Wg, Jun 
44; Hist 45th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 49th TC Sq, Jun 
44; Hist 62d TC Sq, June 44; Hist 97th TC Sq, Jun 
44; memo for Col M. M. Frost from Lt. Col W. R. 
Carter, subj: Painting of Aircraft and Gliders, 13 
May 44, in 505.25A; min of 19th Conference Held 
by Air C-in-C AEAF, 17 May 44, in 505.25-3. 

40. Min of 9th mtg of Airborne-Air Planning Commit- 
tee, 28 Apr 44; Hq IX TCC, Tactical Air Plan for 
Operation NEPTUNE, 2 May 44; Hq IX TCC FO 
1, 31 May 44, in KCRC, files of 82d Abn Div. 

41. Planning Journal, Hq 9th AF, 24 and 25 Mar 44, in 
533.305C; journal, IX TCC A-3, 25 and 26 Mar, 12 
Apr 44; min of 9th AF Commanders' mtg, 14 Apr 
44, in 533.142; Hq IX TCC, Tactical Air Plan for 
Operation NEPTUNE, 2 May 44; Hq 9th AF Adv, 
Minutes of AEAF mtg, 16 May 44, in 506.45 1-322C, 

42. Min of 7th-10th mtgs of Airborne-Air Planning 
Committee, 24 Mar, 14 and 28 Apr, and 18 May 44, 
in 505.27-11; ltr, ACM T. Leigh-Mallory to Deputy 
SCAEF, subj: Operation "OVERLORD" Prepara- 
tory Air Operations, 30 Apr 44, in 506.451-161; ltr, 
Hq AEAF to Distr, subj: Operation "TITANIC," 
18 May 44, in 505.34-12; ltr, Brig Gen F. H. Smith, 
Jr., AEAF Chief of Operations to Hq BC, subj: 
Operation "NEPTUNE" Diversionary Operations in 
Support of Airborne Forces (Operation "TI- 
TANIC"), 25 May 44, in 505.34-12. 

43. Hq IX TCC, Tactical Air Plan for Operation NEP- 
TUNE, 2 May 44; memo for Hq 100 Gp from Hq 
BC, subj: R.C.M. Role for Nos. 199 and 803 Squad- 
rons, Operation "OVERLORD," 26 May 44 in 
505.451-161; msg, AC 84, Hq AEAF to 8th AF A-3, 
3 jlm 44, in 505.451-161. 

44. Hq' AEAF, Air Signals Report on Operation "NEP- 
TUNE," Jul 44, Sec X. 

45. Hq 9th AF Adv, min of AEAF mtg, 16 May 44, in 
506.451-322C; ltr, Brig Gen F. H. Smith, Jr., AEAF 
Chief of Operations, to Distr, subj: Operation 
"OVERLORD" Night Fighter Support for Airborne 
Operations, 20 May 44, in 505.34-12; ltr, Maj Gen 
E. R. Quesada, CG IX FC to CG 9th AF, subj: Rpt, 
Conference AEAF, May 22, 1944, 23 May 44, in 
506.451-322C; directive, Maj Gen E. R. Quesada, 
CG IX FC and AVM J. V. Saunders, 1 1 Gp, to Distr, 
subj: Operation "NEPTUNE" Day and Night Fighter 
Support for Airborne Operations, 1 Jun 44, in 
506.451-329; ltr, Lt Gen J. H. Doolittle, CG 8th AF, 
to CG USSTAF, subj: Role of Eighth Air Force in 
Operation "OVERLORD," 31 May 44; ltr, Hq 
AEAF to CG USSTAF, subj: Bombing Operations 
in Support of "OVERLORD," 1 Jun 44, both in 

46. Hq IX TCC FO 1, 31 May 44, App 4 (Schedule of 
Navigational Aids) to Ann 3, and App B (IX Troop 
Carrier Routes); Hq IX TCC FO 1, 31 May 44, 
amdt 1, 4 Jun 44 (this cancelled plans for another 
marker boat at SPOKANE). 

47. Hq AEAF, Air Signals Report on Operation "NEP- 
TUNE," Jul 44, Sec VI; memo for Distr from Hq 
AEAF, subj: Organization and Operational Employ- 
ment of "Gee" in the AEAF, 29 Jan 44, in 505.27-27; 
ltr, Maj Gen B. M. Giles, C/AS, to CG 9th AF, subj: 
Status of Troop Carrier Training, 4 Feb 44, in 
546.712; min of 8th mtg held by Air C-in-C AEAF, 
23 Feb 44, in 505.25-3; min of 9th AF Commanders' 
mtg, 25 Feb 44, in 533.142; journal, IX TCC Com- 
munications Officer, 8, 11, 16, 27 and 31 Jan 44, in 
546.901A; journal, IX TCC A-3, 9 Apr 44, in 
546.305; journal, IX TCC A-4, 15 Apr 44, in 
546.801; ltr, Lt Gen J. H. Doolittle, CG 8th AF, to 
CG USSTAF, subj: Use of PPF Equipment to Make 
Initial Attack on Assigned Target Areas on "D" Day, 
26 May 44, in 506.451-161; ltr, Hq IX TCC Adv to 
C/AAF, Report of Operation (NEPTUNE), 13 Jun 
44, in 245.631-1; ltr, IX TCC Communications Offi- 
cer to CG IX TCC, Report of Signal Communica- 
tions D-l/D plus 3, Operation "NEPTUNE," 15 
Jun 44, in 546.451 A-l; rpt, Dr. A. W. Lines, D.C.D. 
to AEAF, subj : The Use of Radar Aids in Operation 
NEPTUNE," 14 Jul 44, in 506.451-3 13A (hereinafter 
cited as Lines, Report on Radar Aids in NEPTUNE) . 

48. Hq IX TCC, Teletype Conference, 31 Mar 44, in 
519.255.4(E); Hq AEAF, Air Signals Report on 
Operation "NEPTUNE," Jul 44. 

49. Min of 8th mtg Held by Air C-in-C AEAF, 23 Feb 
44; min of 7th and 8th mtgs of Airborne- Air Plan- 


ning Committee, 24 Mar and 14 Apr 44; journal IX 
TCC A-3, 17 and 22 Mar 44; Hq IX TCC, Teletype 
Conference, 31 Mar 44; Hq IX TCC FO 1, Ann 
3, 31 May 44; Lines, Report on Radar Aids in NEP- 
TUNE; memo for Brig Gen P. L. Williams, CG IX 
TCC, from L. N. Ridenour, Advisory Specialists 
Group, subj : Radar Aids to Operations of IX Troop 
Carrier Command, 19 Apr 44, in 519.255-A(E); Hq 
101st Abn Div Pfdr Gp (Prov), FO 1, 31 May 44, 
in KCRC files of 101st Abn Div. 

50. SHAEF, Op Memo 12, Standard Operating Pro- 
cedure for Airborne and Troop Carrier Units, 13 
Mar 44, in 507.301; Hq IX TCC FO 1, 31 May 44; 
ann 3; Hq 101st Abn Div Pfdr Gp (Prov) FO 1, 31 
May 44; Hq IX TCC Adv, Report of Operation 
(NEPTUNE), 13 Jun 44. 

51. Hq IX TCC, Rosters, 12 Jan-Jun 44, in 546.116. 

52. Hq IX TCC GO's 8, 10, 11, and 20, 25 Feb, 1 and 6 
Mar, and 18 Apr 44, in 546.02; Hq IX TCC, SO 46, 
12 Dec 43, in 546.02; Hist IX TCC, Oct 43; journal, 
IX TCC Comm Sec, 3 and 4 Feb 44; journal, IX 
TCC A-3, Mar-Jun 44. 

53. Hist IX TCC, Jan-May 44; Incl, Tab "B": Aircraft 
Strength — Ninth Air Force Target vs Actual, in ltr, 
Maj Gen H. S. Vandenberg to CG USSTAF, subj: 
Interim Program Report on Equipment, Training and 
Manning of Ninth Air Force, 1 Apr 44, in 505.30-1. 

54. Ltr, Giles to CG 9th AF, subj: Status of Troop Car- 
rier Training, 4 Feb 44; journal, IX TCC A-l, 16 
Mar, 10 Apr, 10, 16, 23-31 May 44, in 546.122; Hq 
IX TCC, Statistical Summary for the Year 1944, in 

55. Hq IX TCC Adv, Report of Operation (NEP- 
TUNE), 13 Jun 44; rpts, IX TCC A-l, 20 Apr and 
20 May 44, in 546.116. 

56. Hist 53d TC Wg, May 44; journal, IX TCC A-4, 7, 
11 and 16-19 Feb, 12, 14, 16 and 21-23 Mar, 14, 16 
and 23-25 Apr, 4 May and 22 June 44; rpts, IX TCC 
Ordnance Section, 30 Apr, 10 and 20 May 44, in 

57. Ltr, Lt Gen J. L. Devers to Gen H. H. Arnold, 3 Jul 
43; ltr, Arnold to Devers, 1 Aug 43, both in 
USAFHD files; ltr, Giles to CG 9th AF, subj: Status 
of Troop Carrier Training, 4 Feb 44; journal, IX 
TCC A-3, 30 May 44; Hq IX TCC, Statistical Sum- 
mary for the Year 1 944. 

58. Ltr, Lt Gen I. C. Eaker to Maj Gen B. M. Giles, 28 
May 43, in USAFHD files, Hist IX AFSC, 16 Oct 
43-9 May 45, pp. 31-39, 108; Hq IX TCC, Statistical 
Summary for the Year 1944; journal, IX TCC A-3, 
20, 27-30 Mar 44; journal, IX TCC A-4, 26 and 28 
Mar, 1, 10, and 29 Apr 44. 

59. Airborne Forces, p. 247; Hist, 437th TC Gp, May 44; 
journal, IX TCC A-4, 28 and 29 Apr; journal, IX 
TCC A-3, 22, 24-26 May, 2 and 4 Jun 44; rpts, IX 
TCC AC Engineer, 30 Apr, 20 and 30 May 44, in 

60. Hist IX AFSC, 16 Oct 43-9 May 45, p. 121; Hist IX 
TCC, Apr 44; journal, IX TCC A-4, 23 and 25 Mar, 

20 Apr, 8-11 May 44; journal, IX TCC A-3, 21 May 
44; rpt, IX TCC AC Engineer, 30 Apr 44; rpts, IX 
TCC AC Supply, 10, 20, and 31 May 44. 

61. Ltr, SHAEF to C-in-C 21 Army Gp and C-in-C 
AEAF, subj : Training Program Troop Carrier — Air- 
borne Combined Training, 6 Feb 44; ltr, SHAEF to 
C-in-C 21 Army Gp and C-in-C AEAF, subj: Troop 
Carrier-Airborne Combined Training, 31 Mar 44, 
both in 505.30-1; ltr, Brig Gen H. A. Johnson to DC 
AEAF, subj: Troop Carrier Exercises, 26 Feb 44; 
all three in 505.30-1; min of 10th mtg Held by Air 
C-in-C AEAF, 8 Mar 44, in 505.25-3. 

62. Hist IX TCC, Feb, Mar 44; ltr, Johnson to DC 
AEAF, 26 Feb; memo for DC AEAF from Brig Gen 
H. A. Johnson, subj: Will Units Assigned to the 
AEAF Be Training and Equipped by May 1st or 
June 1st, 1944, 31 Jan 44, in 505.30-1; journal, IX 
TCC A-4, 27 Jan, 1, 15, 17, 19 and 20 Feb. 44; min 
of 9th AF Commander's mtgs, 3 and 9, Mar 44, in 
533.142; min of Meeting at Training Branch to Dis- 
cuss Selection and Assignment of Additional Aero- 
dromes for Glider and Fighter Operation, 16 Mar 44, 
in 505.25-23; bi-weekly log of Brig Gen H. A. 
Johnson, 16-18 Mar 44, in 505.30-1; min of 7th mtg 
of Airborne-Air Planning Committee, 24 Mar 44, in 
505.27-11; ltr, Hq AEAF to Under Secretary of 
State, Air Ministry, DDO, subj: Operation "OVER- 
LORD"-Airfield Dispositions, 27 Mar 44, in 505.33- 
31; journal, IX TCC A-4, 26-31 Mar, 1 and 3 
May 44. 

63. Leonard Rapport and Arthur Northwood, Jr., Ren- 
dezvous with Destiny, A History of the 101st 
Airborne Division (Washington, D.C., 1948), pp. 
40, 44-45, 57-58; Gavin, Airborne Warfare, p. 39; 
rpt, Hq 82d Abn Div, The 82d Abn Division, Action 
in Normandy, France, Jun-Jul 44, p. 1, in 533.45)- 

64. Hist 53d TC Wg, Feb, Mar 44; Hist 434th TC Gp, 
Oct 43-Mar 44; Hist 435th TC Gp, Oct 43-Mar 44; 
Hist 436th TC Gp, Feb and Mar 44; Hist 437th TC 
Gp, Feb and Mar 44; Hist 438th TC Gp, Feb and 
Mar 44; journal, IX TCC A-4, 8, 10 and 15 Feb, 5 
23 Mar 44; ltr, Giles to CG 9th AF, subj: Status of 
Troop Carrier Training, 4 Feb 44. 

65. Hist IX TCC, Mar, Apr 44; Hist 53d TC Wg, Mar, 
Apr, and May 44; Hist 434th TC Gp, Mar 44; Hist 
437th TC Gp, Mar 44; Hist 435th TC Gp, Apr 44; 
Hist 75th TC Sq, Apr 44; Hist 506th PIR, Activation 
— Apr 44, in KCRC in regimental files; ltr, Brig Gen 
M. D. Taylor, CG 101st Abn Div, to Col M. M. 
Beach, 24 Mar 44, in hist file 53d TC Wg; journal, 
IX TCC A-3, 21 and 26 Mar, 4 and 27 Apr 44; rpts, 
IX TCC A-3, 12 Mar, 11 Apr 44, in 546.116; Hq IX 
TCC FO 6 (Exercise MUSH), 12 Apr 44; Hq 9th 
AF Adv to AEAF, COSUM 21 (Exercise MUSH), 

21 Apr 44, both in 546.717D; ltr, Brig Gen P. L. 


Williams to CG AAF, subj: Troop Carrier Training 
for Operation "NEPTUNE," 14 Jun 44, in 546.452G. 

66. Hist IX TCC, Feb, Mar 44; Hist 52d TC Wg, Feb, 
Mar, Apr 44; Hist 315th TC Gp, Feb, Mar 44; Hist 
442d TC Gp, 1 Sep 43-1 Apr 44; Hist 305th TC Sq, 

I Sep 43-1 Apr 44; Hist 306th TC Sq 1 Sep 43-1 Apr 
44; journal, IX TCC A-3, 18, 26 Mar 44; journal, IX 
TCC A-4, 15, 19 Feb 44; ltr, Maj R. M. Stewart, Jr. 
to Chief of Training, AEAF, subj: The 52d Troop 
Carrier Wing, 11 Apr 44, in 505.30-1. 

67. Hist IX TCC, Apr and May 44; Hist 52d TC Wg, 
Apr and May 44; Hist 316th TC Gp, Mar and Apr 
44; Hist 315th TC Gp, Apr and May 44; Hist 442d 
TC Gp, Apr and May 44; Hist 14th TC Sq, Apr 44; 
Hist 53d TC Sq, Apr 44; Hist 43d TC Sq, Apr and 
May 44; wkly ops rpts (hereinafter cited as opreps: 

. All opreps and mission reports will be found in unit 
history files unless otherwise noted.), 315th TC Gp, 
8 Apr-7 May 44, opreps 442d TC Gp, 8 Apr-7 May 
44; journal, IX TCC A-3, 13 and 21 Mar, 9, 12, 24 
and 27 Apr, 1, 9, and 15 May 44; rpt, IX TCC A-3, 

II Apr 44; Hq 9th AF Adv COSUM 21, 21 Apr 44; 
ltr, Maj R. M. Stewart to Chief of Training AEAF, 
subj: The 52d Troop Carrier Wing, 11 Apr 44; ltr, 
Brig Gen P. L. Williams to CG AAF, subj: Troop 
Carrier Training for Operation "NEPTUNE," 14 
Jun 44. 

68. Hist 50th TC Wg, Feb and Mar 44; Hist 439th TC 
Gp, Feb and Mar 44; Hist 440th TC Gp, Feb and 
Mar 44; Hist 441st TC Gp, Feb and Mar 44; Hq 
IX TCC, GO's 9 and 14, 25 Feb and 21 Mar 44, in 
546.193; ltr, Maj R. M. Stewart to Chief of Training 
AEAF, subj: The 50th Troop Carrier Wing, 11 Apr 
44, in 505.30-1. 

69. Hist IX TCC, Apr 44; Hist 50th TC Wg, Apr and 
May 44; Hist 440th TC Gp, Apr and May 44; Hist 
441st TC Gp, Apr 44; Hist 439th TC Gp, May 44; 
Hist 441st TC Gp, May 44; wkly opreps, 441st TC 
Gp, 1-29 Apr 44, in unit hist files; journal, IX TCC 
A-3, 11, 17, 18, 27 Apr 44; journal, IX TCC A-4, 17, 
19 May 44; rpt, IX TCC A-3, 21 Apr 44; in 546.116; 
rpt, IX TCC Engineer, 10 Apr 44, in 546.116; ltr, 
Williams to CG AAF, 14 Jun 44. 

70. Hist IX TCC, Feb 44; journal, IX TCC Communi- 
cations Officer, 12, 13, and 22 Feb 44, in 546.910A; 
journal, IX TCC A-3, 21 and 23 Mar 44; journal, IX 
TCC A-4, 25 Mar 44; rpt, IX TCC A-3, 5 Mar 44, 
in 546.116; ltr, Williams to CG AAF, 14 Jun 44. 

71. Lines, Report on Radar Aids in NEPTUNE; ltr, 
Williams to CG AAF, 14 Jun 44; ltr, Col J. L. 
Crouch to CG IX TCC, Attn A-3, subj: Report Path- 
finder School, 13 Jun 44, in 546.072A; Hq IX TAC 
(Rear) Opnl Res Sec, Rpt 47, Report on the Mission 
of the Pathfinder Aircraft of the Pathfinder School, 
IX Troop Carrier Command, During Operation 
NEPTUNE, Jun 5/6, 1944, 25 Jun 44, in 546.310A. 

72. Hist IX TCC, Apr and May 44; Hist 50th TC Wg, 
May 44; Hist 52d TC Wg, May 44; Hist 53d TC Wg, 

May 44; Hist 315th TC Gp, May 44; Hist 434th TC 
Gp, May 44; Hist 437th TC Gp, May 44; Hist 439th 
TC Gp, May 44, Hist 440th TC Gp, May 44; Hist 
442d TC Gp, May 44; min of 9th and 10th mtgs of 
Airborne-Air Planning Committee, 28 Apr and 18 
May 44; Hq 52d TC Wg FO 6 Exercise EAGLE, 
May 44 in unit hist file; oprep EAGLE, Hq 314th 
TC Gp, 12 May 44; Consolidated Mission Report 
(hereinafter cited as CMR) EAGLE, Hq 314th TC 
Gp, undated; oprep EAGLE, Hq 315th TC Gp, 13 
May 44; oprep EAGLE, Hq 442d TC Gp, 12 May 
44; ltr CG 21 Army Gp to Hq AEAF, subj: Exer- 
cise "EAGLE" Airborne Rehearsal, 20 Apr 44, in 
505.89-11; Hq IX TCC FO 8, Operation EAGLE, 7 
May 44, in 505.89-11; Hq 50th TC Wg FO 11, Exer- 
cise EAGLE, 8 May 44, in 535.717D; oprep 1, Hq 
IX TCC Pfdr Force, Mission EAGLE, 12 May 44, 
in 546.3062A. 

73. Hist 50th TC Wg, Jun 44; Hist 52d TC Wg, Jun 44; 
Hist, 53d TC Wg, Jun 44; Hist 442d TC Gp, Jun 44; 
journal, IX TCC A-3, 17 and 26 Mar 44; journal, IX 
TCC A-2, 29 Apr, 4 and 31 May and 3 Jun 44. 

74. Hist 52d TC Wg, Jun 44; Hist 313th TC Gp, Jun 44; 
Hist 439th TC Gp, Jun 44; Hist 33d TC Sq, June 44; 
Hist 47th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 49th TC Sq, Jun 44; 
Hist 59th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 61st TC Sq, Jun 44; 
Hist 62d TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 
95th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 98th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 
309th TC Sq, Jun 44; journal, IX TCC A-2, 14, 18 
and 31 May 44; ltr, Exec 50th TC Wg, to Hist 
50th TC Wg, subj: Planning of "Operation Neptune," 
9 Jun 44, in wing hist file; ltr, Hq AEAF to Distr, 
subj: Briefing of Key Personnel, 31 May 44, in 

75. Hist 50th TC Wg, Jun 44; Hist 52d TC Wg, Jun 44; 
Hist 53d TC Wg, Jun 44; Hist 34th TC Sq, Jun 44; 
ltr, Col B. A. Dickson, 1st Army S-2 to Distr, subj: 
Security in Airborne Mounting, 15 May 44; ltr, Hq 
IX TCC to CG 52d Wg and CO's 50th and 53d TC 
Wgs, subj: Security Directive for Operation "NEP- 
TUNE," 21 May 44, in hist file 50th TC Wg. 

76. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, pp. 250-51; Harri- 
son, Cross-Channel Attack, pp. 273-76; dispatch, 
ACM T. Leigh-Mallory, Air C-in-C AEAF to SAC, 
subj: Air Operations by the Allied Expeditionary 
Air Force in Northwest Europe from November 
15th, 1943 to September 30th, 1944, Nov 44, in AU 
Lib 940.54 G 786 1, no. 37839; Hq AEAF, A Report 
of Air Operations Preparatory to and in Support of 
Operation "NEPTUNE," in 506.306A (There is a 
very close relationship between this report and cor- 
responding portions of Leigh-Mallory's dispatch.); 
Report by the Allied Naval C-in-C Expeditionary 
Force on Operation "NEPTUNE," I, 10, 44-46, 
in 506.451-490A. 

77. Craven and Cate, AAF IN WW II, III, 172, 188, 
195; Harrison Cross-Channel Attack, pp. 275, 278, 
293, 297-98; Hq AEAF, Air Signals Report on Oper- 
ation "NEPTUNE"— Planning and Assault Phase, 


Jul 44, Sec VIII; dispatch by Leigh Mallory on Air 
Operations by AEAF; Hq AEAF, A Report of Air 
Operations Preparatory to and In Support of Opera- 
tion "NEPTUNE"; Report by Allied Naval Com- 
mander-in-Chief on Operation "NEPTUNE"; Dept 
of the Army, Airborne Operations, A German Ap- 
praisal (Pamphlet 20-232), Oct 51, in 170.132-232; 
Telephone Log of the German Seventh Army from 
June 6 to June 30, 1944, in 512.621 (British Air Min, 
German Translations, v.13), in 512.621 VII/70; 
lecture by Lt R. C. Smith, 23 Jun 44, in 248.532-49. 

Chapter II 

1. Leonard Rapport and Arthur Northwood, Jr., Ren- 
dezvous with Destiny, pp. 93-94; Hq AEAF, Air Sig- 
nals Report on Operation "NEPTUNE" Jul 1944; 
rpt, Dr. A. W. Lines, D.CD. to AEAF, subj: The 
Use of Radar Aids in Operation "NEPTUNE," 
(hereinafter cited as Lines, Report on Radar Aids 
47, Report on IX TCC Pathfinder Mission During 
Operation NEPTUNE, 25 Jun 44; IX TCC Pfdr Gp, 
Oprep BOSTON, 6 Jun 44, and Oprep ALBANY, 11 
Jun 44, both in 546.3 062A; rpt, Hq 82d Abn Div, 
Action in Normandy, France, June-July 44, ann 4a, 
in 533.451.451. 

2. SHAEF, Opr Memo 12, SOP for Airborne and 
Troop Carrier Units, 13 Mar 44, in 507.301; Hq IX 
TCC, Memo 50-21, SOP for Troop Carrier- Airborne 
Operations, 2 May 44, in 505.34-12; Hq IX TCC FO 
1, NEPTUNE-BIGOT, 31 May 44; Hist 88th TC Sq, 
Jun 44; Hist 301st TC Sq, Jun 44. 

3. Hq 101st Abn Div, Airborne Operation Neptune- 
101st Abn Div, 19 Jul 44, in KCRC divisional files. 

4. Hist 438th TC Gp, Jun 44; Hist 441st TC Gp, Jun 
44; Hist 310th TC Sq, Jun 44; journal, 9th AF Dep 
C/S, 5 Jun 44, in 533.305B. 

5. Lt S. S. Cromie, 438th TC Gp, quoted in S. Levitt, 
"Down and Go," Stars and Stripes, 2 Jul 44, in Hist 
file 438th TC Gp; Air Ministry, A.H.B., Airborne 
Forces (1951), pp. 125, 129-30; Hist 98th TC Sq, 
Jun 44; journal, 506th PIR S-3, 5-6 Jun 44, in KCRC 
regimental file. 

6. Hist 53d TC Wg, Jun 44; Hist 436th TC Gp, Jun 
44; Hist 438th TC Gp, Jun 44; Hist 79th TC Sq, 
Jun 44; Hist 80th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 81st TC Sq, 
Jun 44; Hist 90th TC Sq, Jun 44; oprep 1, 436th TC 
Gp, Mission Neptune, 6 Jun 44; oprep 1, 438th TC 
Gp, Mission Neptune, 6 Jun 44; Hq 9th AF, "First 
Reports over Phone" (handwritten notes) in 
533.4511; Hist 502d PIR, (Jun 44) in KCRC, unit 

7. Rapport and Northwood, Rendezvous with Destiny, 
Maps p. 102 and 104; R. G. Ruppenthal, UTAH 
Beach to Cherbourg (Washington, 1947), Map p. 
16 and Map V; Hq 101st Abn Div, Airborne Opera- 
tion Neptune— 101st Abn Div, 19 Jul 44. 

8. Gordon A. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack (Wash- 
ington 1951), pp 280-82, 329; Ruppenthal, UTAH 
Beach to Cherbourg, pp. 16-20, 51, 54; Rapport 
and Northwood, Rendezvous with Destiny, pp. 103- 
10, 121-27. 

9. Ruppenthal, UTAH Beach to Cherbourg, pp 20-21, 
Map p. 22 and Map V; Rapport and Northwood, 
Rendezvous with Destiny, pp. 96-97, 101; Hist 50th 
TC Wg, Jun 44; Hist 435th TC Gp, Jun 44; Hist 
439th TC Gp, Jun 44; Hist 75th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 
76th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 77th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 
78th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 91st TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 
92d TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 93d TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 
94th TC Sq, Jun 44; oprep 50th TC Wg, Mission 
ALBANY, 6 Jun 44; aprep, 435th TC Gp, Mission 
13 Operation Neptune, 6 Jun 44; MR 439th TC Gp, 
Neptune Bigot, 6 Jun 44; interrogation of Lt Col 
C. H. Young, in hist file 439th TC Gp; Lines, Report 
on Radar Aids in NEPTUNE; Hq 101st Abn Div 
Airborne Operation Neptune — 101st Abn Div, 19 Jul 
44; ETOUSA Hist Sec, The 506th Parachute Infantry 
Regiment in the Normandy Drop, in 502.04B-3. 

10. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, pp. 282-84; Rup- 
penthal, UTAH Beach to Cherbourg, pp. 20-23, 51- 
53; Rapport and Northwood, Rendezvous with Des- 
tiny, pp. 95-103, 128-31, 134; journal, 506th PIR, 
S-l, 6 Jun 44; journal, 506th PIR S-2, 6 Jun 44; jour- 
nal, 506th PIR S-3, 6 Jun 44, all in KCRC, regi- 
mental files. 

11. Hq 501st PIR FO 1, 24 May 44; Hq 506th PIR FO 
1, 24 May 44; Hq 101st Abn Div FO 1, 18 May 44; 
amdt 1, 27 May 44, in KCRC, divisional files. 

12. Ruppenthal, UTAH Beach to Cherbourg, pp. 23-27; 
Hist 50th TC Wg, Jun 44; Hist 440th TC Gp, Jun 44; 
Hist 441st TC Gp, Jun 44; Hist 95th TC Sq, Jun 44; 
Hist 96th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 97th TC Sq, Jun 44; 
Hist 98th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 99th TC Sq, Jun 44; 
Hist 301st TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 302d TC Sq, Jun 44; 
DZ Europe, The Story of the 440th TC Gp, in unit 
hist files; Lines, Report on Radar Aids in NEP- 
TUNE; oprep, 50th TC Wg, ALBANY; Hq 101st 
Abn Div, Airborne Operation Neptune-lOlst Abn 
Div, 19 Jul 44. 

13. Rapport and Northwood, Rendezvous with Destiny, 
pp. 60, 93, 111-20, 132-38; Ruppenthal, UTAH 
Beach to Cherbourg, pp. 25-30 and Map V; Harrison, 
Cross-Channel Attack, pp. 286-88; Hq 101st Abn 
Div FO 1, 18 May 44 and amdt 1, 27 May 44, in 
unit files in KCRC; Hq 101st Abn Div, Airborne 
Operation Neptune-lOlst Abn Div, 19 Jul 44, in unit 
files in KCRC; ltr, Capt C.G. Shettle to CG 506th 
PIR, subj: Report on Activities of 3d Battalion, 24 
Jun 44; ltr, Shettle to Co 506th PIR, subj: Unusual 
Incident, 8 Jul 44, both in files of 506th PIR in 

14. Ruppenthal, UTAH Beach to Cherbourg, pp. 72-74, 
77-78; Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, pp. 239, 293, 
297-98, 347-48, 356-57; journal, 506th PIR S-3, 8 
Jun 44. 


15. Lines, Report on Radar Aids in NEPTUNE; Hq 82d 
Abn Div, Action in Normandy; Hist 52d TC Wg, 
Jun 44; Hist 315th TC Gp, Jun 44; Hist 316th TC 
Gp, Jun 44; Hist 34th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 36th TC 
Sq, Jun 44; Hist 37th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 43d TC 
Sq, Jun 44; Hist 44th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 45th TC 
Sq, Jun 44; Hist 309th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 310th TC 
Sq, Jun 44; oprep, 315th TC Gp, Mission NEP- 
TUNE-BOSTON, 6 Jun 44; oprep, 316th TC Gp, 
Mission Neptune-Boston, 6 Jun 44. 

16. Ruppenthal, UTAH Beach to Cherbourg, Map on 
p. 32 and Map VI. 

17. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, pp. 289-97, 342-44; 
Ruppenthal, UTAH Beach to Cherbourg, pp. 30-39, 
61-65; James M. Gavin, Airborne Warfare (Wash- 
ington, 1947), pp. 60-61; Hist Sec ETO, Regimental 
Study 6, The Capture of Ste Mere Eglise, in 502.04B- 
6; Hist 505th PIR, 6 Jun-15 Jul 44; journal, 505th 
PIR S-l, 6 and 7 Jun 44; journal, 505th PIR S-3, 
6 and 7 Jun 44; msgs, Hq 2d Bn, 505th PIR, to CO 
505th PIR, 0820, 1215 and 2030, 6 Jun 44; msg, Hq 
1st Bn, 505th PIR, to CO 505th PIR, 0930, 6 Jun 
44, all above in USAFHD, Microfilm Box 2058, Item 

18. Ruppenthal, UTAH Beach to Cherbourg, Map VI; 
Lines, Report on Radar Aids in NEPTUNE; Hist 
313th TC Gp, Jun 44; Hist 314th TC Gp, Jun 44; 
Hist 32d TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 47th TC Sq, Jun 44; 
Hist 49th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 50th TC Sq, Jun 44; 
Hist 61st TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 62d TC Sq, Jun 44; 
Hq 52d TC Wg FO 1, Operation NEPTUNE, 1 Jun 
44; oprep, 313th TC Gp, Neptune Bigot 1, 6 Jun 
44; oprep, 314th TC Gp, BIGOT NEPTUNE 1, 6 
Jun 44; MR, 47th TC Sq, 6 Jun 44, MR 48th TC Sq, 
6 Jun 44 Narrative of Capt C. S. Cartwright in hist 
file 62d TC Sq. 

19. Ruppenthal, UTAH Beach to Cherbourg, pp. 30, 40- 
41, 119-20; Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, pp. 293, 
400-1; S.L.A. Marshall, "Affair at Hill 30," Marine 
Corps Gazette, Feb 48, pp. 8-20, Mar 48, pp. 20-25. 

20. Ruppenthal, UTAH Beach to Cherbourg, Map p. 36, 
and Map VI; Hist 61st TC Gp, Jun 44; Hist 442d TC 
Gp, Jun 44; Hist 14th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 15th TC 
Sq, Jun 44; Hist 53d TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 59th TC 
Sq, Jun 44; Hist 61st TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 303d TC 
Sq, Jun 44; Hist 304th TC Sq, Jun 44; oprep, 61st 
TC Gp, Mission Neptune Boston, 6 Jun 44; oprep, 
442d TC Gp, Mission Bigot Neptune, 6 Jun 44; CMR 
303d TC Sq, 6 Jun 44; CMR 304th TC Sq, 6 Jun 44. 

21. Ruppenthal, UTAH Beach to Cherbourg, pp. 37-40, 
119-27; Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, pp. 290-92, 
396-401; Hist Sec ETO Regt Unit Study 4, The Forc- 
ing of the Merderet Causeway at La Fiere France, in 
502.04B-4; Hist, 325th Gl Inf Regt 6 Jun-14 Jul 44. 
in Box 2055, AGO Microfilm Item 2121; 'journal, 
325th Gl Inf Regt, 7-11 Jun 44; journal, 325th Gl 
Inf Regt S-3, 7-9 Jun 44, above three in Box 2055, 
AGO Microfilm Item 2121; journal, 82d Abn Div 
S-2, 6-10 Jun 44; Statement by Maj D. E. Thomas, 

15 Jun 44, both in Box 2007, AGO Microfilm Item 
2029; journal, 82d Abn Div S-3, 6-10 Jun 44; 
Strength Rept, 505th, 507th and 508th PIR's and 
325th Gl Inf Regt, 9 Jun 44, both in Box 2030, AGO 
Microfilm Item 2047. 

22. Journal, 9th AF Dep C/S, 11 Jun 44, in 533.305B. 

23. Hist 50th TC Wg, Jun 44; Lines, Report on Radar 
Aids in NEPTUNE. 

24. Rapport and Northwood, Rendezvous with Destiny, 
pp. 74, 132; IX TCC Adv, Report of Operation 
(NEPTUNE), 13 Jun 44, in 245.631-1; Incl, "Tim- 
ing for Night of D-l/D, U.S. Troop Carrier Revised 
Schedule of 30 May 44" to Itr, Hq AEAF to Distr, 
subj: Operation "NEPTUNE"— Employment of U.S. 
Airborne Forces, 31 May 44, in 505.34-12. 

25. Rapport and Northwood, Rendezvous with Destiny, 
pp. 97, 119 (Map 15), 130-33; Hist 434th TC Gp, 
Jun 44; Hist 73d TC Sq, Jun 44; oprep, 434th TC Gp, 
Mission Neptune-Bigot, 6 Jun 44; Hq IX TCC, Tac- 
tical Air Plan for Operation NEPTUNE, 2 May 44; 
journal, 506th PIR S-3, 6 Jun 44; Hq 506th PIR, 
Operations of the 506th Parachute Infantry in the 
Invasion of Western Europe, in KCRC unit files; 
Lines, Report on Radar Aids in NEPTUNE. 

26. Hist 437th TC Gp, Jun 44; Interrogations of glider 
pilots, 437th TC Gp, in unit hist file (Some of these 
erroneously titled as relating to other missions.); Hq 
82d Abn Div, Action in Normandy; Lines, Report on 
Radar Aids in NEPTUNE; Hq Btry A, 80th Abn 
AA Bn, Action Rpt, 6-8 Jun 44, in Box 2044 AGO 
Microfilm Item 2074. 

27. Rapport and Northwood, Rendezvous with Destiny, 
pp. 131-33; Hist 434th TC Gp, Jun 44; oprep 434th 
TC Gp, Mission Neptune-Bigot-Keokuk, 7 Jun 44. 

28. Ruppenthal, UTAH Beach to Cherbourg, pp. 53-54; 
Hq, 82d Abn Div, Action in Normandy; Hist 437th 
TC Gp, Jun 44; Hist 438th TC Gp, Jun 44; Hist 
87th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 88th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 
89th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 90th TC Sq, Jun 44; oprep 
2, 437th TC Gp, Mission NEPTUNE ELMIRA, 7 
Jun 44; oprep 2, 438th TC Gp, Mission ELMIRA, 6 
Jun 44; MR 88th TC Sq, 7 Jun 44; narratives of 
Capt W. W. Bates and Capt W. J. Adams, in Hist 
53d TC Wg, Jun 44; Hist 505th PIR, 6 Jun-15 Jul 
44; Operations Overlay, 505th PIR, 1830 6 Jun 44, 
in Box 2058 AGO Microfilm Item 2141; Statement 
by Major Silvey in Hist 320th Gl FA Bn, 6 Jun-11 
Jul 44, in Box 2049, AGO Microfilm Item 2101. 

29. Hist 435th TC Gp, Jun 44; Hist 436th TC Gp, Jun 
44; Hist 75th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 76th TC Sq, Jun 
44; 77th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 78th TC Sq, Jun 44; 
Hist 79th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 80th TC Sq, Jun 44; 
Hist 81st TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 82d TC Sq, Jun 44; 
oprep 2, 435th TC Gp, Ser 33 of FO 1— Neptune, 7 
Jun 44; oprep 2, 436th TC Gp, Mission Neptune, 7 
Jun 44; interrogations of glider pilots, 82d TC Sq; 
Hq 53d TC Wg, Statistical Analysis, First Year in 
ETO, 13 Mar 45, in unit hist file. 


30. Hq 82d Abn Div, Action in Normandy, ann 5; Hist, 
505th PIR, 6 Jun-15 Jul 44; opr Overlay, 505th PIR, 
1830 6 Jun 44; Hist 82d Abn Div Arty 25 May-15 
Jul 44, in Box 2046, AGO Microfilm Item 2079; 
Hist 319th Gl FA Bn, 6 Jun-12 Jul 44, in Box 2048, 
AGO Microfilm Item 2096; Hist 320th Gl FA Bn, 
6 Jun-11 Jul 44; journal, 320th Gl FA Bn, 6-8 Jun 
44; Table of Glider Landing Statistics (320th Gl 
FA Bn), all in Box 2049, AGO Microfilm Item 2101. 

31. Hist 434th TC Gp, Jun 44; Hist 437th TC Gp, Jun 
44; Hist 73d TC Sq, Jun 44; oprep, 434th TC Gp, 
Mission Neptune-Bigot, 7 Jun 44; oprep, 437th TC 
Gp, Mission Neptune No. 3, 7 Jun 44; interrogations 
of glider pilots, 437th TC Gp, in unit hist files (only 
14 available); Hq 8 2d Abn Div, Action in Nor- 
mandy, ann 5. 

32. Ruppenthal, UTAH Beach to Cherbourg, p. 65; Hist 
50th TC Wg, Jun 44; Hist 439th TC Gp, Jun 44; 
Hist 441th TC Gp, Jun 44; Hist 91st TC Sq, Jun 44; 
Hist 92d TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 93d TC Sq, Jun 44; 
Hist 94th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 99th TC Sq, Jun 44; 
Hist 100th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 301st TC Sq, Jun 
44; Hist 302d TC Sq, Jun 44; oprep, 50th TC Wg, 
Mission HACKENSACK, 7 Jun 44; oprep, 439th 
TC Gp, Mission HACKENSACK, 7 Jun 44; oprep, 
441st TC Gp, Mission HACKENSACK, 7 Jun 44; 
Hq 441st TC Gp, Aircraft Order, Operation OVER- 
LORD, in unit hist file; Hist 325th Gl Inf Regt, 6 
Jun-14 Jul 44; journal, 325th Gl Inf Regt, 7 Jun 44, 
both in Box 2055, AGO Microfilm Item 2121. 

33. Memo Rpt, Maj W. C. Lazarus, ATSC Eng Div 
subj: Study of Airborne Requirements in the Euro- 
pean Theater of Operations, 30 Nov 44, in R. J. 
Snodgrass, The AAF Glider Program November 
1944-January 1947, Nov 47, II, Doc 118 in 201-51. 

34. Hist 53d TC Wg, Jun 44; Hist 75th TC Sq, Jun 44; 
interrogations of glider pilots, 82d TC Sq, in unit 
hist file; interrogation of Capt W. T. Evans, in hist 
file 437th TC Gp; interrogation of Capt William 
W. Bates in hist file 53d TC Wg; ltr, Maj Gen M. B. 
Ridgway to CG IX TCC, subj: Operations, 8 Jun 44, 
in hist file 437th TC Gp; rpt IX TCC A-l, 10 Jun 
44, in 546.116; Combat Casualty Rpt, Hq IX TCC, 
14 Jun 44, in 546.3911; rpt, Hq IX TCC, subj: Troop 
Carrier Operational Activities, 29 Nov 44, in 546.02. 

35. Hq 52d TC Wg, FO 2, Operation NEPTUNE, 3 Jun 
44, and amdts 2 and 3, 3 and 5 Jun 44, in unit hist 
file; rpt, Hq IX TCC, Supply By Air, 20 Nov 44, pp. 
30, 33, 34, in 546.461; min of mtg held at Norfolk 
House, subj: Operation "OVERLORD" — Specialized 
Equipment for Troop Carrier Operations and Supply 
by air, 8 Mar 1944, in 505.33-67. 

36. Hist 52d TC Wg, Jun 44; Hist 61st TC Gp, Jun 44; 
Hist 313th TC Gp, Jun 44; Hist 314th TC Gp, Jun 
44; Hist 316th TC Gp, Jun 44; Hists 14th, 15th, 53d 
and 59th TC Sqs, Jun 44, in Hist file 61st TC Gp; 
Hist 29th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 32d TC Sq, Jun 44; 
Hist 36th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 37th TC Sq, Jun 44; 
Hist 44th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 45th TC Sq, Jun 44; 

Hist 47th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 48th TC Sq, Jun 44; 
Hist 49th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 61st TC Sq, Jun 44; 
Hist 2d QM Depot Supply Sq, Apr, May and Jun 44; 
oprep, 61st TC Gp, Mission Neptune Freeport, Serial 
38, 7 Jun 44; oprep, 313th TC Gp, Mission Neptune 
Bigot #2, 7 Jun 44; oprep, 314th TC Gp, BIGOT- 
NEPTUNE #2, 7 Jun 44; oprep, 316th TC Gp, 
Neptune Bigot Freeport, 7 Jun 44; CMR, Hq 314th 
TC Gp, NEPTUNE #2, 7 Jun 44; CMR Hq 14th 
TC Sq, Mission Neptune Freeport, (n.d.); CMR Hq 
15th TC Sq, Mission Neptune Freeport, (n.d.) CMR 
Hq 48th TC Sq, Mission NEPTUNE II Resupply, 
7 Jun 44; CMR Hq 50th TC Sq, NEPTUNE- 
BIGOT Resupply, 7 Jun 44; Hq 82d Abn Div, Action 
in Normandy, p. 9, ann 2; Hq IX TCC, Supply By 
Air, 20 Nov 44, p. 2; Hq XVIII Corps, Airborne 
Resupply Operations, 30 Oct 44, in 507.301; Hist 
407th Abn QM Co., 6 Jun-15 Jul 44, in AGO Micro- 
film Box 2061, Item 2162. 

37. Hist 50th TC Wg, Jun 44; Hist 440th TC Gp, Jun 44; 
Hist 442d TC Gp, Jun 44; Hist 95th TC Sq, Jun 44; 
Hist 96th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 97th TC Sq, Jun 44; 
Hist 98th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 303d TC Sq, Jun 44; 
Hist 304th TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 306th TC Sq, Jun 44; 
DZ Europe, The Story of the 440th TC Gp; Hq 50th 
TC Wg, Opn 158, 6 Jun 44; Hq 440th TC Gp, FO 
2 Memphis, 6 Jun 44; oprep, 440th TC Gp, Mission 
Memphis, 7 Jun 44; oprep, 442d TC Gp, Mission 
Memphis, 7 Jun 44; weekly oprep, 439th TC Gp, 11 
Jun 44; rpt, Hq IX TCC, Supply By Air, 20 Nov 44, 
p. 2; Hq XVIII Corps, Airborne Resupply Opera- 
tions, 30 Oct 44, in 507.301. 

38. Hist 50th TC Wg, Jun 44; Hist 80th TC Sq, Jun 44; 
Hist 81st TC Sq, Jun 44; Hist 82d TC Sq, Jun 44; 
oprep, 441st TC Gp, Neptune #3 Resupply, 8 Jun 
44; opreps, 436th TC Gp, Neptune #4, 5, 6 and 7. 
10, 12, and 13 Jun 44; Hq IX TCC, Opr Flashes U 
53 C and U 55 C, 10 and 12 Jun 44; rpt, Hq IX 
TCC, Supply By Air, 20 Nov 44, p. 2. 

39. Airborne Forces, pp. 124-36, 139, 284; Hq AEAF, 
Air Signals Report on Operation "NEPTUNE," Jul 
44; Hq 38 Gp, Report on the British Airborne Effort 
in Operation "NEPTUNE" by 38 and 46 Groups, 
R.A.F., 14 Nov 1944, in 512.452. 

40. Bernard L. Montgomery, Normandy to the Baltic 
(Germany, 1946), pp. 71, 73; Airborne Forces, pp. 
147-48; Hist 50th TC Wg, Jun 44; Hist 52d TC Wg, 
Jun 44; Hist 53d TC Wg, Jun 44; Hist 315th TC Gp, 
Jun 44; Hist 435th TC Gp, Jun 44; Hist 52d TC Wg, 
FO 1, Opr NEPTUNE, 1 Jun 44; ltr, IX TCC Adv 
to CG's 52d, 50th and 53d TC Wgs, subj: Operation 
WILDOATS, 12 Jun 44 and enclosures, in 546.452D. 

Chapter III 

1 . W. F. Craven and J. L. Cate, The Army Air Force in 
World War II, III (Chicago, 1951), 244-45; Air 
Ministry, A.H.B., Airborne Forces, (1951) pp. 141- 
44; Lewis H. Brereton, The Brereton Diaries (New 
York, 1946), pp. 308-9, 322; ltr, Gen H. H. Arnold 


to Lt Gen Carl Spaatz, 28 Dec 43, in USAFHD files; 
memos for ACM Leigh-Mallory from Secy Gen 
Staff, SHAEF, subj: Summary of Decisions Made 
by Chief of Staff and Deputy Chiefs of Staff, 20 Jun, 
13 Jul and 1 Aug 44, in 505.17-11. 

2. Ltr, SHAEF AG to Distr, subj: Reorganization of 
Airborne Forces, 8 Aug 44, in 145.81-69; ltr, SHAEF 
AG to Lt Gen L. H. Brereton, subj: Directive, 8 Aug 
44; ltr, SHAEF AG to Air C-in-C AEAF, subj: Re- 
designation of Combined Airborne Forces, 16 Aug 
44, both in 505.80-1. 

3. Memo for C/AS from Lt Col A. C. Carlson et al, 
subj: Report of Observations of Airborne Operations 
in the ETO, 30 Oct 44, Tab E, Operations Planned 
by First Allied Airborne Army Prior to MARKET, 
and Tab G, Airborne Planning, in 506.452A. 

4. Ltr, SHAEF AG to Air C-in-C AEAF, subj : Assign- 
ment of Units, 16 Aug 44; Hq AEAF, Org Memo 
134/ORG/1944, 22 Sep 44, in 505.80-1. 

5. Hist IX TCC, Sep 44; Hist IX TCC Service Wing 
(Prov), Sep 44; USSTAF GO 59, 1 Sep 44, in hist 
file of IX TCC; ltr, Hq IX TC Sv Wing (Prov) to 
CG IX TCC, subj: Activities of IX TROOP Carrier 
Service Wing (Prov) in Operation "Market," 20 
Oct 44. 

6. Hist IX Pfdr Wing (Prov), 14-30 Sep 44. 

7. Hist IX TCC, Aug, Sep 44. 

8. Airborne Forces, p. 148; Bernard L. Montgomery, 
Normandy to Baltic, (Germany, 1946), pp. 96-97; 
SHAEF AEAF Air Plans Branch, Position of Plan- 
ning Reports, 5 Jul, 18 Jul, and 1 Aug 44, in 505.25- 
13; SHAEF AEAF Staff, Activity Rpts, 5, 11, 14, 
18, 21, and 29 Jul 44, in 505.30-7. 

9. James M. Gavin, Airborne Warfare, (Washington, 
1947), p. 62-63; min of 9th AF Commanders mtgs, 
7 Jul 44, in 533.142. 

10. USAF Historical Study 74, Airborne Missions in the 
Mediterranean, 1942-1945, pp. 178 and 192; Hist IX 
TCC Jul and Aug 44. 

11. Hist IX TCC, Jun and Jul 44; wkly opreps, 50th TC 
Wg, 10 Jun-29 Jul 44; wkly opreps, 52d TC Wg, 10 
Jun-29 Jul 44; wkly opreps, 53 TC Wg, 10 Jun-29 Jul 
44; CATOR Wkly Load Summaries, 10 Jun-29 Jul 
44; memo for Vandenberg from Bagby, 24 Jun 44, 
both in 505.27-30A. 

12. Hist 50th TC Wg, Aug; Hist, 53d TC Wg, Aug 44; 
Hq 53d TC Wg FO 2, 15 Aug 44, in hist file 434th 
TC Gp; Report of Observations of Airborne Opera- 
tions in the ETO, 30 Oct 44, Tab E; ltr, Brig Gen 
H. L. Clark to Brig Gen P. L. Williams, 11 Aug 44 
in 546.452B; ltr, Hq AEAF to Dist, subj: Operation 
"TRANSFIGURE"— Air Support, 17 Aug 44, in 

13. Report of Observations of Airborne Operations in 
the ETO, 30 Oct 44, Tab E; SHAEF Air Plans 

Branch, Position of Planning on 17 August 1944, in 

14. Omar N. Bradley, A Soldier's Story, (New York, 
1951), pp. 385-86; 401-4; The Brereton Diaries, p. 
339; Chester Wilmot, The Struggle for Europe, (New 
York 1952), pp. 471-2, 476, 484-85, 529-30; Report 
of Observations of Airborne Operations in the ETO, 
30 Oct 44 and Tabs H and I; rpt, Hq IX TCC, Sup- 
ply By Air, 20 Nov 44, pp. 4-5, 9, 15, 18, 24-25, in 
546.461; ltr, Brig Gen R. G. Moses, 12 Army Gp 
G-4 to CG TCC, subj: Supply by Air, 11 Sep 44, in 
hist 50th TC Wg, Sep 44; journal, IX TCC A-3, 1-4 
Sep 44, in 546.305; Hist 50th, TC Wg, Sep 44; Hist 
52d TC Wg, Sep 44; Hist 53d TC Wg, Sep 44; Hist 
438th TC Gp, Sep 44. 

15. Bradley, A Soldier's Story, pp. 398-400; Mont- 
gomery, Normandy to 'he Baltic, pp. 148-153; Wil- 
mot, The Struggle for Europe, p. 468; ltr, Eisen- 
hower to Brereton, 29 Aug 44, in Report of Observa- 
tions of Airborne Operations in the ETO, 30 Oct 
44, Tab C. 

16. Bradley, A Soldier's Story, pp. 401-3; Montgomery, 
Normandy to the Baltic, pp. 158-59; The Brereton 
Diaries, pp. 336-38; Report of Observations of Air- 
borne Operations in the ETO, Tab E; Hist IX TCC, 
Aug and Sep 44; ltr, Hq FAAA to Lt Gen F. A. M. 
Browning, subj : Task Force for Operation LINNET, 
27 Aug 44; Hq FAAA Outline Plan for Allied Air- 
borne Operation LINNET, 29 Aug 44; Hq IX TCC 
FO 3, 31 Aug 44, all three in 546.452J. 

17. Report of Observations of Airborne Operations in 
the ETO, Tabs E and G; Hist 52d TC Wg, Sep 44; 
Hq IX TCC Adv, Warning Order for Airborne 
Operation, 6 Sep 44; ltr, Hq IX TCC Adv to Distr, 
subj : Routing and Times of Troop Carrier Forces, 7 
Sep 44; Hq 52d TC Wg, FO 6, 7 Sep 44, all three 
in 546.4521. 

18. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, (Garden 
City, 1948), p. 307; Montgomery, Normandy to the 
Baltic, pp. 165-66; 170-74; Wilmot, The Struggle for 
Europe, pp. 487-92; msgs, 13765 and 14764, SHEAF 
Fwd to CG FAAA et al, 9 and 13 Sep 44; both in 
Report of Observations of Airborne Operations in 
the ETO, Tab C. 

19. The Brereton Diaries, pp. 341-42; Gavin, Airborne 
Warfare, pp. 72-75, 85-86; Leonard Rapport and 
Arthur Northwood, Jr. Rendezvous with Destiny 
(Washington, 1948), pp. 255, 263, 267; rpt, Hq 
FAAA, Operations in Holland, Sep-Nov 44, pp. 9-11, 
in 545.01A; Hq 8th AF, Special Report of Opera- 
tions in Support of First Allied Airborne Army 17-26 
Sep 44, 31 Oct 44, pp. 1-2, in 520.452 (hereinafter 
cited as Hq 8th AF, Special Report on MARKET) ; 
ltr, Brereton to Arnold, 24 Oct 44, in 545.452C; Hq 
IX TCC, FO 3, 31 Aug. 1944; Hq IX TCC, FO 4, 
13 Sep 44, in 546,452K; Hq 82d Abn Div, FO 11, 
ann la, 1 1 Sep 44, in Hist IX TCC, Sep 44, App 4; 
ltr, Hq FAAA to Lt Gen F. A. M. Browning, subj: 
Task Force for Operation "MARKET," 11 Sep 44- 


msg, VX 25218, CG FAAA to CG USSTAF et al, 
1900 10 Sep 49, both in 520.452. 

20. Gavin, Airborne Warfare, pp. 86, 88. 

21. Hq IX TCC, Air Invasion of Holland, IX Troop 
Carrier Command Report on Operation MARKET, 
2 Ian 45, pp. 9-15, in 546.452K; Hq IX TCC, FO 
4, 13 Sep 44, Hq 8th AF, Special Report on 
MARKET, pp. 4-6; Hq 38 Gp, Opn 0526, 12 Sep 44, 
in Hist IX TCC, Sep 44, App 4. 

22. Hilary St. G. Saunders, The Red Beret, (London 
1950), pp. 227-30; Wilmot, The Struggle for Europe, 
pp. 499-500; Gavin, Airborne Warfare, pp. 111-112; 
Airborne Forces, pp. 152, 155-56 and Fig. 6; Hq 
British Airborne Corps, Report of Allied Airborne 
Operations in Holland, Sep-Oct 44, p. 2 and App B, 
Map 2, and Apps C and D; in 545.452E. 

23. Gavin, Airborne Warfare, pp. 86-88, 97-98; Hq 82d 
Abn Div, FO 1 1 , 1 1 Sep 44. 

24. Rapport and Northwood, Rendezvous with Destiny, 
pp. 263, 265, 275 and maps 34-36 (The maps are not 
entirely consistent with each other.); Hq IX TCC, 
FO 4, 13 Sep 44; Hq 101st Abn Div, FO 1, BIGOT 
MARKET, 14 Sep 44, in Hist IX TCC, Sep 44, App 

25. Gavin, Airborne Warfare, pp. 87-89; Rapport and 
Northwood, Rendezvous with Destiny, pp. 263, 265, 
275; Airborne Forces, pp. 151-58; Hq. IX TCC FO 
4, 13 Sep 44 and amdts 1, 2 and 3, 16, 17 Sep 44, in 
520.452; Hq 38 Gp, Opn 526, 12 Sep 44; rpt Hq 
FAAA, Operations in Holland Sep-Nov 44, pp. 11- 
12; Hq IX TCC, Air Invasion of Holland, pp. 9-15, 
and 59; min of Meeting at Main Hq, 2d Army, 14 
Sep 44, in 520.452; Report of Observations of Air- 
borne Operations in the ETO, 30 Oct 44; Tab D, 
Intelligence Plans and Estimates; Itr, Hq IX TCC to 
CG 9th AF, subj: Navigational Radar Aids, 18 lun 
44; Itr, Hq 9th AF to CG USSTAF, subj: Naviga- 
tional Radar Aids, 1 Jul 44, and 1st, 2d and 5th ind, 
16, 21 Jul and 2 Aug 44, both in 519.255-4; msg, 
S-221, IX TCC Adv to Hq 8th AF, 16 Sep 44; msg, 
K-13, Hq 21 AG to Hq 2 Gp RAF et al, 16 Sep 44, 
both in 520.452. 

26. Hq IX TCC, FO 4, 13 Sep 44; min of mtg at Main 
Hq, 2d Army, 14 Sep 44; Hq Brit Abn Corps, Opr 
Instr 2, 14 Sep 44, in Hist IX TCC Sep 44, app 4. 

27. Hq 8th AF, Special Report on MARKET, pp. 2-7; 
journal 9th AF Oprs Div, 15 Sep 44, in 533.305E; 
msgs, AC-106 and AC-110, Hq AEAF Rear to Hq 
USSTAF et al, 15 and 16 Sep 44; msg, MC 38, Hq 
AEAF Adv to Hq 9th AF Adv, 16 Sep 44; telet, 48, 
Hq 9th AF Adv to CG IX TAC, (16) Sep 44, all in 
533.452M; msg, S-5386, Vandenberg to Spaatz, 16 
Sep 44; msgs, D-61078 and D-61108, Doolittle to 
Vandenberg, sig Spaatz, 16 and 17 Sep 44, all in 

28. Hist 442d TC Gp, Sep 44; Hq IX TCC, FO 4, 13 
Sep 44; Hq 38 Gp, Opn 526, 12 Sep 44; Report of 
Observations of Airborne Operations in the ETO, 30 

Oct 44, Tab E; Hq IX TCC, Air Invasion of Holland, 
pp. 54, 55, 57; Hq 50th TC Wg, Report of Operation 
MARKET, 23 Oct 44, in unit hist file; rpt, IX TCC 
Engr Sec, 10 Sep 44, in 546.115. 

29. Hist IX AFSC, 16 Oct 43-9 May 45, pp. 147-48, and 
190, in 540.01; Hist 26th Mobile R and R Sq, Sep 
44; rpt, ASC USSTAF Statistical Office, Status of 
Aircraft and Combat Crews as of 16 Sep 44, 18 Sep 
44, in 546.245; rpt, Hq IX TCC, Statistical Summary 
for the Year 1944, (n.d.) in 546.308; rpt, IX TCC 
A-l, 10 Sep 44, in 546.115; rpt, IX TCC Air Corps 
Engr Sec, 30 Aug 44, in 546.116. 

30. Hq IX TCC, Air Invasion of Holland, p. 56; min of 
9th AF Commanders Mtgs, 16 and 23 Jun 44, in 
533.142; journal, IX TCC A-4, 22 Jun and 3 Sep 
44, in 546.801. 

31. Report of Observations of Airborne Operations in 
the ETO, 30 Oct 44, Tab I, Statistical Summary of 
the Activities of the IX Troop Carrier Command (4 
Jun-7 Oct 44); Hist 50th TC Wg, Jun-Sep 44; Hist 
52d TC Wg, Jun-Sep 44; Hist 53d TC Wg, Jun-Sep 
44; Hist 315th TC Gp Sep 44; Hist 316th TC Gp, 
Sep 44; wkly opreps, 50th TC Wg, 5 Aug-16 Sep 
44, in app E to wg hists, Aug and Sep 44; wkly 
opreps, 52d TC Wg, 17 Jun-26 Aug 44; table, subj: 
Operations for period 29 Jul through 2 Sep, in app 
B to Hist 50th TC Wg, Aug 44. 

32. Hq IX TCC, Air Invasion of Holland, pp. 20, 47; 
Hist 50th TC Wg, Sep 44; Hist 52d TC Wg, Sep 44; 
Hist 53d TC Wg, Sep 44; Hist 440th TC Gp, Sep 
44; Hist 442d TC Gp, Sep 44; Hist 99th TC Sq, Sep 
44; rpt, Hq 52d TC Wg, Operation "MARKET," 
Sep 44, (n.d.), pp. 6, 9, 60, in unit hist file. 

33. Hq FAAA, Operations in Holland Sep-Nov 44, p. 14; 
Hq IX TCC, Operation MARKET Weather Sum- 
mary, in Hist IX TCC, Sep 44, App 5; rpt, IX TCC 
Staff Weather Officer, Weather Outlook for the 
Period 16-20 Sep 44 for Southern England, Channel 
and Battle Areas, 1630, 16 Sep 44, in Hist IX TCC, 
Sep 44, app 5; Hq 8th AF, Special Report on MAR- 
KET, ann 55, Operational Possibilities Based upon 
Weather for the Period 17-25 Sep Inclusive. 

34. Hq FAAA, Operations in Holland Sep-Nov 9 44, 
pp. 15-16; Hq IX TCC Air Invasion of Holland, ann 
5, Air Support Activity in Connection with Opera- 
tion "MARKET"; Hq 8th AF, Special Report on 
MARKET, pp. 8-10; 8th AF Opnl Research Sec, 
Report on Operation by Eighth Air Force Heavy 
Bombers in Support of Nijmegen and Arnhem Oper- 
ations — 17 Sep 44, 10 Oct 44, in Hq 8th AF, Special 
Report on MARKET, ann II; Hq USSTAF Intopsum 
815, 18 Sep 44, in 519.3071. 

Chapter IV 

1. James M. Gavin, Airborne Warfare, (Washington, 
1947), pp. 98-99; Hist IX TCC Pfdr Gp, 14-30 Sep 
44, in 546.072A; Hq IX TCC, Air Invasion of Hol- 
land, IX Troop Carrier Command Report on Opera- 


tion MARKET, 2 Jan 45, pp 59-62, and p. 72 (Itr, 
Gavin to Williams, 25 Sep 44,), in 546.452K; Hq 
82d Abn Div, Graphic History of the 82d Airborne 
Division Operation "MARKET" (hereinafter cited 
as Hq 82d Abn Div, Graphic History of "MAR- 
KET") Pt III, in Hist IX TCC, Sep 44, app 5; J. A. 
Huston, Airborne Operations (Draft Hist, Dept of 
the Army, OCMH) ch. VII. 

2. Hilary St. G. Saunders, The Red Beret (London, 
1950), pp. 231-32; Hq 38 Gp, Report on the British 
Airborne Effort in Operation MARKET, 1 Jan 45, 
pp. 10-11, in 505.54-3. 

3. Hist 53d TC Wg, Sep 44; Hist 435th TC Gp, Sep 
44; Hist 442d TC Gp, Sep 44. 

4. Hist, IX TAC, Sep 44; Hist 4th Ftr Gp, Sep 44; Hist 
361st Ftr Gp, Sep 44; Hq 8th AF, Special Report of 
Operations in Support of First Allied Airborne Army 
17-26 Sep 44, 31 Oct 44, pp. 11-12, and ann 1, Map 
3, in 520.452 (hereinafter cited as Hq 8th AF, 
Special Report on "MARKET"); oprep, 48th Ftr 
Gp, 17 Sep 44; oprep, 366th Ftr Gp, 17 Sep 44; 
oprep, 367th Ftr Gp, 17 Sep 44; oprep, 474th Ftr Gp, 
17 Sep 44. 

5. Leonard Rapport and Arthur Northwood, Jr., Ren- 
dezvous with Destiny (Washington, 1948), pp. 268- 
69; Hist 53d TC Wg, Sep 44; Hist 434th TC Gp, Sep 
44; Hist 435th TC Gp, Sep 44; Hist 436th TC Gp, 
Sep 44; Hist 438th TC Gp, Sep 44; Hist 442d TC Gp, 
Sep 44; Hist 304th TC Sq, Sep 44; Hq IX TCC, Air 
Invasion of Holland, pp. 25-26; Hq 101st Abn Div, 
Report on Operation MARKET, 12 Oct 44, pp. 1-2, 
in 545.452D; Hq, 506th PIR, After Action Report, 
10 Dec 44, in KCRC unit files, msg, S24B, IX TCC 
Adv to Hq 8th AF, 18 Sep 44, in 520.452. 

6. Rapport and Northwood, Rendezvous with Destiny, 
pp. 275-79; Hist, 442d TC Gp, Sep 44; Hq IX TCC, 
Air Inxasion of Holland, pp. 25-26, 71; Hq 501st 
PIR, Summary of Operations 17-18 Sep 44, and 
attached overlay of paratroop drops, in KCRC unit 
files; 501st PIR S-2, Report 1305-2400, 17 Sep 44, 
in KCRC unit files. 

7. Rapport and Northwood, Rendezvous with Destiny, 
pp. 271-74; Chester Wilmot, The Struggle for Europe 
(New York, 1952), pp. 506-8; Hq IX TCC, Air 
Invasion of Holland, pp. 26 and 70-71; Hq 506th 
PIR, After Action Report, 10 Dec 44; Hq 506th 
PIR, Unit Journal Operation "MARKET," 17 Sep 
44; "Regimental History 506th Parachute Infantry 
Journal" (handwritten notebook), all three in KCRC 
unit files. 

8. Rapport and Northwood, Rendezvous with Destiny, 
pp. 280 ff.; Hist 435th TC Gp, Sep 44; Hist 438th TC 
Gp, Sep 44; Hist, 75th TC Sq, Sep 44; Hist 89th TC 
Sq, Sep. 44; Hq IX TCC, Air Invasion of Holland, 
pp. 26, 70; 502d PIR S-3, Report, 17 Sep 44; journal, 
3d Bn, 502d PIR, S-3, 17 Sep 44, both in KCRC regi- 
mental files; ltr, Capt E. C. Thornton to CG IX TCC, 
subj: Operation MARKET, 1 Oct 44, in hist IX TCC, 
Sep 44, app 5. 

9. Rapport and Northwood, Rendezvous with Destiny, 
pp. 269-71; Hist 53d TC Wg, Sep 44; Hist 437th TC 
Wg, Sep 44; Hq IX TCC, Air Invasion of Holland, 
p. 27; Hq 101st Abn Div, Report on Operation 
MARKET, 12 Oct 44, pp 1, 3, and ann 2 (Report 
on Operation Market 101st Airborne Division Glider 

10. Gavin, Airborne Warfare, p. 98; Hist 99th TC Sq, 
Sep 44; Hist 100th TC Sq, Sep 44; Hist 301st TC Sq, 
Sep 44; MR 29th TC Sq, 17 Sep 44; MR 47th TC 
Sq, 17 Sep 44; MR 48th TC Sq, 17 Sep 44; Hq 82d 
Abn Div, History of "MARKET," pp. 1-2, 7, Pt 
III, and Pt IV; Hq IX TCC, Air Invasion of Holland, 
pp. 22-24; rpt, Hq 52d TC Wg, Operation "MAR- 
KET" Sep 44, n.d., pp. 12, 21-22; Hq 50 TC Wg, 
Report of Operation "MARKET," 23 Oct 44, p. 7 
and Stat Summary, in Hist IX TCC, Sep 44, app 5. 

11. Hq IX TCC, Air Invasion of Holland, ann 5, Air 
Support Activity in Connection with Operation 
"MARKET"; Hq 8th AF, Special Report on MAR- 
KET, pp. 11-12, and ann 1, Map 3; Hist 78th Ftr 
Gp, Sep 44; rpt Col F. C. Gray, Summary of 78th 
Fighter Group's Operations in Support of Allied 
Airborne Operations in Arnhem-Nijmegen Area, 
in hist file 78th Ftr Gp. 

12. Gavin, Airborne Warfare, p. 100; Hist 50th TC Wg, 
Sep 44; Hist 52d TC Wg, Sep 44; Hist 439th TC Gp, 
Sep 44; Hist 440th TC Gp, Sep and Oct 44; Hist 
441st TC Gp, Sep 44; Hist 313th TC Gp, Sep 44; 
Hist 315th TC Gp, Sep 44; Hist 316th TC Gp, Sep 
44; Hist 34th TC Sq, Sep 44; Hist 36th TC Sq, Sep 
44; Hist 49th TC Sq, Sep 44; Hist 99th TC Sq, Sep 
44; Hist 100th TC Sq, Sep 44; Hist 301st TC Sq, Sep 
44; Hist 302d TC Sq, Sep 44; Hq 50th TC Wg, Re- 
port of Operation "MARKET," 23 Oct 44, p. 7 and 
Stat Summary; rpt, 52d TC Wg, Operation "MAR- 
KET" Sep 44, pp. 21-22, 56-7, 64. 

13. Gavin, Airborne Warfare, pp. 98, 101, 104; Hist 45th 
TC Sq, Sep 44; Hq IX TCC, Air Invasion of Hol- 
land, pp. 22-23; Hq 82d Abn Div, History of "MAR- 
KET," pp 1-2, Pt III and Pt IV; rpt, Hq. 52d TC